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The Normans
Dreams Of Autocrashes
India Records

Almost there. That's the best I can muster for this album. I find myself in a strange spiral of music that subtly changes directions in the same vein without really traveling anywhere. Just when I want the album to end and I can't take anymore, I catch a fleeting glimpse of brilliance that fades faster than it arrived. Frankly, I am trying so hard not to use the title of the album as a way of describing what I think about it.

The Normans are the brainchild of Brent Baldwin, who plays everything but the kitchen sink on this album, although I would suspect he considered throwing it in just to impress us. And yes, I am soooo impressed with your saw playing skills on the title track "Dreams of Autocrashes", bloody brilliant. While I would usually applaud diversity of members and their instruments of choice, I have now found the exception to the rule. At first glance we appear to be dealing with a megalomaniacal songwriter, more involved with the visions in his own head than with what the final product sounds like; but when viewed more closely you can see he is very concerned with the final product. Yeah, I know, makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Let me explain.

It's a matter of song structure versus overall feel and ambience. You know how there's that saying "You can polish a turd as much as you want, but you can't make it shine?" well once again ol' Baldwin proves to be the exception to the rule. The songs themselves are almost completely worthless in my book, too much lead-up to nothing. And while Baldwin's voice is okay, the lyrics vary from appalling to just plain melancholic ramblings. You ever hear a song use a good riff, and then just completely ruin it with no deviation or method to the madness? "Air" is the perfect example. Some bands can get away with it like Lungfish and Modest Mouse, but not The Normans.

Where he is successful is the overall feel of the album. The production of the work shows the loving hand of a parent who knows they have a 'special' child, glossing them over, and dressing them up so they can play nicely with everyone else, so that maybe no one will notice. Specifically, Baldwin uses layers of almost imperceptible instrumentation on the inside to give a depth and feel that you have to be listening for to really appreciate. On the outside you are left with a nice ambience that tries to heighten the overall structure. I was pleasantly caught by surprise with that, but it's still a piece of shiny turd.

The Normans need to polish their songwriting skills, and then I would have no problem letting them into my playgroup. Please, just one thing though, I beg of you, put a friggin' peak into at least one of your songs. Sixteen tracks of lead-up to nothing, not one apex. You have to have a resolution to release some of that energy, or else you are left as unfulfilled as I was. Hmm, come to think of it, it reminds me of prom.


Track Listing:

1. Dreams Of Autocrashes
2. Wishes
3. Emily
4. Writing
5. Time In/Time Out
6. Letter
7. Air
8. Heavens To Betsy
9. Tried To Try
10. Tiny
11. Bad Joke
12. Mr. Catfish Says
13. Breakfast
14. Lullaby
15. Hope
16. Dreams End


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