Friday, 3 August 2012

reviews: paul vickers & friends, six organs of admittance, eugene mcguinness

Paul Vickers and Friends - Nest of Knickers (***)

Like the shows at which it will be sold, Paul Vickers’ latest album offers a lot of variety. Previously-unreleased Dawn of the Replicants tracks sit alongside newly-written spoken word pieces and experimental musical slithers (‘songs’ seems an overly formal description for some of these oddities), making Nest of Knickers boldly incohesive but fun to dip in and out of.

The storytelling passages are particularly captivating; full of grotesquery and invention, they rub awkwardly against accessible songwriting like Yabba Yabba (a Replicants cut that’s probably the most conventional thing here). Indeed, awkwardness seems integral to Vickers’ mischievous comedic project, and though there’s an unshakeable sense that an in-character monologue’s natural home remains the stage – where the eccentricities have room to puff out their lungs – the results are always intriguing. Vickers will host accompanying 'wonky cabaret' Twonkey’s Kingdom throughout this year’s Alternative Fringe: on the strength of this exemplar, we’d recommend a swatch.

Out Now

Six Organs of Admittance - Ascent (***)

Adopting the maxim ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny opens his latest album with a big, bold guitar solo – a whole five and a half minutes of virtuoso fret fiddling, all told. Track two mixes things up, kind of: it’s still a five-minute guitar solo, but with a couple of extra minutes of moody psych preceding it.

For those who prefer such noodling as a means to an end (rather than the main attraction), both workouts are liable to outstay their welcome, but Chasny knows better than to let tedium take root, with Solar Ascent focusing his skills on a dirge-like slice of melancholia, and the acoustic melodies of Your Ghost delivering another well-timed pace-change. While Ascent is arguably less distinctive than recent discography highlights like the droning Luminous Night, its full-on rock elements serve to further subvert SOA’s alt-folk origins, to striking effect.

Out 20th August

Eugene McGuinness - The Invitation to the  Voyage (**)

From quirky, well-regarded debut to playing guitar in musical shrug Miles Kane’s backing band in just four short years: Eugene McGuinness hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders lately. But now he’s back, with slick quiff and slicker production, re-cast in a plastic soul mould and vying for a piece of the 80s-pop revival action. “I’m going for the jugular,” he explains on opener Harlequinade, and his methodology is not to be trifled with: stuffed with synths and trumpets and gloss, it’s a bold and brash vanguard for an album with definite promise.

But elsewhere it’s lazy: Japanese Cars is purposeless pastiche; Shotgun samples Peter Gunn to irritating effect; while the lyrics of Sugarplum are liable to set eyes-a-rolling, particularly when followed by the comparatively imaginative imagery of lead single Lion. Bright points like that make it difficult to write Invitation to the Voyage off completely, but celebrating it proves more difficult still.
Out 6th August

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