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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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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