Monday, December 25, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 7

How much do you think the designers billed Rough Trade for this one?

If we didn't expect anything special from the latest incarnation of Green Gartside's new soul vision we weren't concentrating hard enough. The hip-hop flavoured Anomie And Bonhomie eight years ago, itself after an eleven year gap between albums, passed many by and in retrospect was probably more an elongated work in progress towards finding somewhere new to go from the 80s sheen under which he became a hitmaker. There's nothing resembling a chart hit on White Bread Black Beer, but what there is is a distillation of the silky smooth sound along with the movements and eccentricities that have coloured his work throughout. In fact, where this album lands is in the no man's land between the anarchic squat days of the dissonant post-punk sound with which Gartside and friends first emerged - the album was recorded DIY style in his bedroom - and the buffed to a shine pre-R&B lover's soul which even as the production values shone was busy didactically taking the very language of love and songwriting apart.

Opener The Boom Boom Bap is one of the best things anyone did in 2007, which isn't a bad way to reintroduce yourself. The close-mic'd voice is so eulogised that it seems pointless to say it's as lustrous as ever, and now sounding oddly like a more mature, English Justin Timberlake, but the song resonates with, well, people like us, being a tribute to the hip-hop that he spent much of the gap getting engrossed in but in the language structure of the love song, reduced to the bare bones of keyboard swells, peaks and squelches, drum machine, multitracked vocals and fractured melody, exploding into a few moments of unfettered summeriness before descending back to the dreamy bedroom production while he reads out the tracklisting of the first Run DMC album. It makes sense in context, and goes back to an idea we've developed before about what pop music is now the term is used as a verb, or at least pop music developed with self-sufficient care and construction. Snow In Sun sounds like an out-take from the Beach Boys' Smile, almost a suite in three and a half minutes which breaks into a languid almost ragga groove towards the end while Throw reverberates with light psychedelics and a bed of gentle burbling offset by the repeated phrase "get me out of here" and Road To No Regret features a tiny liquid country-rock guitar solo and sounds like a wistful domestic Glen Campbell. Dr Abenathy starts as a thoughtful, vaguely lachrymose acoustic lament before two minutes in turning into big glam with an unashamedly intellectual varnish for three minutes, then returning for an introspective ending. You wouldn't call this AOR, but it's an album of interesting music for adults, or at least a certain type, those who are trying to make sense of the last thirty years or so of pop music and adapting it to their own, now settled but still jumpy and esoteric lives.

LISTEN ON: Snow In Sun
WATCH ON: Green overcoming his stage fright meant we have live versions of The Boom Boom Bap and a reworking of Wood Beez
READ ON: Time Out get to the bottom of things: Martin Carthy's generosity, Robert Wyatt and the Clash, telling girls' mags about cultural relativism, the way old men piss

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