Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 12

Hoi! Stop standing about and get that card game finished

You'd hesitate to call it an attitude shift, but now half of Brakes can legitimately call it their primary band * and the other half find the Electric Soft Parade's appeal (unfortunately, judging by this year's The Human Body EP) becoming more selective there's a sense of refinement and ability channelling that was, if not absent, then certainly a wallflower on first album Give Blood, a superb album but one in retrospect that feels more like a recording equivalent of automatic writing, closing songs off the moment the point is made, getting their mates in, failing to give a shit about pigeonholing and generally killing collectuve downtime. A 28 minute album is hardly stretching their legs that much, but only Porcupine And Pineapple shares the earlier trait of shearing down the message to its molten core, and that track was a former B-side. What has happened is the punkier tracks have a message and more of a structure, while the country excursions no longer feel like a quick and easy way of varying the tempo.

(* Oh, apparently the Tenderfoot are still a going concern despite what we were led to believe. That's ruined that angle, then)

The Beatific Visions has been written up as a politicised album, and opener Hold Me In The River opens with an attack on terror policies (at least up until Eamon Hamilton delivers the very un-Diarmuid suggestion of aiding garden growth by "lying on the grass thinking of Scarlett Johansson") but it's more a reflection of Hamilton's seething against the world's "redesigned and pre-trialled, demographically assured" ills and bastards that also touched most of Give Blood. They can do the slower stuff better too, a sojourn in Nashville informing If I Should Die Tonight's barrelhouse piano, Isabel's minimal delicacy, Mobile Communication's Violent Femmes-ish yearning West Coast alt-country and closer No Return's shimmering, reflective balladry that yearns for escape amid a record store setting. Growing without actually maturing, The Beatific Visions is the sound of a band who have now worked out what they can do and are still keen to push on from there, while still wanting to harbour a driving, spite-driven song about God losing to Satan at cards.

LISTEN ON: Margarita
WATCH ON: Porcupine Or Pineapple live at End Of The Road festival; Hold Me In The River on the Album Chart Show
READ ON: Subba-Cultcha reveal an Allman Brothers element

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