Sunday, April 5, 2015

From the Cliffs - Guillemots

From The Cliffs
Fantastic Plastic Records B0006426-01

This is a double EP which I consider to be a ridiculous format, why not just release a proper album, it would be just as long and more convenient.  I had been reading about this British band for awhile and was interested in them, but I didn't buy this record until I saw someone compare them to my beloved Belle and Sebastian.  I must have bought dozens of albums already because of someone invoking a comparison to the Belles.  Of course they never really sound like them, I'm always disappointed.  However I'm such a sucker that I can't resist, I always fall for that comparison.  This band doesn't sound like Belle and Sebastian either although I can see why reviewer made the observation.  I'm not sorry I bought this record though, it is worthy in its own right.  It comprises the band's debut EP "I Saw Such Things in My Sleep" (tracks 3-6) and their single "Trains to Brazil" (tracks 2, 7 and 8) plus one new song, "Sake" which opens the record.  "Sake" is hardly a song, more of a fragment really, less than a minute long.  There is a single moaned verse with murky piano accompaniment.  Like all but one of the songs on the record, it was written by Fyfe Dangerfield.  The record comes to life with the poppy "Trains to Brazil."  It has a propulsive drum beat perfect for dancing and swirling synth lines that drive the song with horns in the breaks for extra oomph.  The song is about missing a loved one and making the most of one's life.  Despite what the sleeve says, the next song is "Who Left the Lights Off, Baby?"  It is a bouncy, upbeat tune about trying to dump a lover.  The lyrics are kind of mean, but humor and the sunny vocal make the song sound cheerful and appealing despite its subject.  The song ends with an exuberant sax solo.  The B side features "Over the Stairs" which is nearly 10 minutes long.  It is a slow moody song with a dream pop sound from its heavy use of synthesizers and organ.  I would find it dreary were it not for Dangerfield's passionate vocal which makes the song compelling.  It reminds me of Suede.  I believe the song is about finding oneself.  Side C opens with "Made Up Lovesong #43" which is a love song with a twee flavor.  It starts slow and then the rhythm section kicks in giving the song abundant energy and drive.  "Cats Eyes" is a slightly jazzy song featuring a dynamic vocal from Dangerfield that gives it strength.  The lyrics are poetic and enigmatic, it is a very lovely song, easily the most interesting one on the album.  Side D begins with "Go Away" which was composed by the entire band.  It is driven by a reggae-like bass and drum pattern that provides a seductive groove over which Dangerfield does the indie rock equivalent of scat singing.  The record concludes as quietly as it began with "My Chosen One" which features Dangerfield softly crooning a tender love song over minimalist piano support.  The songwriting on this record is better than average and the music is fine, but Dangerfield's singing is the primary draw for me.  He has terrific range and sings with a lot of feeling.  Recommended to fans of Damien Rice.

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