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The Electric Soft Parade
No Need To Be Downhearted
Better Looking Records
www.electricsoftparade.com


Here's another collection - and first US release - from Brighton, England's White brothers, better known as The Electric Soft Parade. It's a great return to form, too; after ESP's debut Holes In The Wall took the music press by storm and had certain writers raving about "The New Boy Wonders" (the Whites were only teenagers at the time), their follow up The American Adventure was mostly viewed as a typical sophomore slump. It must be tough to distil your entire life into your first record and then be expected to come up with something at least as good in a matter of a couple of dozen months, but the guys have really nailed it with this one.

Herein you'll find plenty of sunny but often dark psych-tinged pop, with great hooks and harmonies. It's pretty eclectic stuff; I'm tempted to use one of those impossible-to-imagine comparisons that music reviewers use all too often (y'know, something like "imagine The Byrds getting busy with Björk at Ricky Martin's cabana and then running into AC/DC on the way home"). The only album I can really think of that approaches the variety on No Need To Be Downhearted is the much-missed Boo Radleys' Giant Steps.

It's difficult to describe this record as a whole as it's so all over the map - albeit in a very good way - so let's just dissect a few of the songs.

We lead off with the title track; a doleful piano intro gives way to a swelling waltz with some nice harmonies. It's all very McCartney/Beatles, and all too short.

"Life In The Back Seat" is much more new wave in an XTC kind of way. There's a tinny drum machine intro, then some pounding, real percussion, nagging rhythm guitar and more harmony vocals. The singer sounds more like a less miserable Guy Garvey of Elbow this time, or maybe the Beta Band's Stephen Mason. There's also more than a passing reminder of later period Stereolab, when they dropped some of the drone.

"If That's The Case, Then I Don't Know" is another jittery new wave number, but with some quite heavy guitars. I especially like the tinkly Stranglers-style keyboards on this one.

"Shore Song" is a nice break - a twinkling instrumental with what sounds like a glockenspiel. It's saved from tweeness by a woozy, disoriented feel, almost like something from My Bloody Valentine.

"Cold World" (from last year's The Human Body EP, well worth a listen) is one of the highlights of the album; another McCartney-esque one with other echoes of the Beach Boys (or at least the High Llamas), but with dark guitars and a sitar-y coda.

"Have You Ever Felt Like It's Too Late" is a bright, breezy but somehow melancholy number, reminiscent of those previously mentioned Boo Radleys. Alex White definitely has a little bit of the Radleys' Sice's sweetness.

This is a good record for the summer, whether driving around or basking in the sun, and one that takes a while to reveal all of its charms; you'll find something new to like with each listen.

-Gareth Bowles

Track listing:
1. No Need To Be Downhearted
2. Life in the Backseat
3. Woken By a Kiss
4. If That's the Case, Then I Don't Know
5. Shore Song / Surfacing
6. Misunderstanding
7. Secrets
8. Cold World / Starry Nite #1
9. Have You Ever Felt Like It's Too Late ?
10. Come Back Inside
11. Appropriate Ending
12. No Need To Be Downhearted


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