Friday, 14 March 2014
reviews: Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures, Bill Pritchard, Appletop
Stanley Brinks and the Wave Pictures (***)
Named after the drink that fuelled its recording, Stanley Brinks’ third collaboration with The Wave Pictures is a somewhat untidy collection that in its best stretches offers up raw bursts of inspiration, but with the odd off-moment elsewhere to suggest time at the bar might have been better spent at the drawing board.
Admittedly, the threshold between messy brilliance and just plain messy is a difficult one to pinpoint with regards an artist like Brinks, who since departing Herman Dune has generated scores of albums with near absolute autonomy, any frayed edges contributing to his appeal. Nonetheless, when a song falls as flat as Spinola Bay does here, it’s difficult not to yearn for a more discerning and incisive approach. Luckily, the rest of Gin exercises its creator’s idiosyncrasies more successfully, and, as on their previous two secondments, The Wave Pictures prove nicely suited to the record’s loose, improvisational style.
Bill Pritchard - A Trip to the Coast (***)
Staffordshire-born songwriter Bill Pritchard has been releasing music intermittently since the eighties, though if the name doesn’t ring bells it’s probably because his successes have mostly occurred across the channel. A Trip to the Coast is his first album in 9 years, and while it’s tempting to read dashed dreams into the line “I sometimes wonder how it could be/ if I’d been more commercial”, the music’s mellow tenor suggests no hard feelings regarding the homeland snub.
Pritchard’s Anglo-French background is conveyed through bilingual lyrics (mostly English à l’exception de Tout Seul) and tracks named for both Paris and, somewhat less grandly, a suburb of Stoke-on Trent. The fact that the latter is treated with just as much tender affection as the former indicates a lot about Pritchard’s agreeably romantic worldview, and while his understated guitar pop is possibly too lightweight to inspire more than a passing fancy, it’s a breezy pleasure while it lasts.
Appletop - Brave Mountains (***)
Hailing from the town of Hyères in the sunny Côte d’Azur, Appletop are French on their passports but emphatically American in their musical leanings, trading in the same brand of fuzzy, winsome alt-rock perfected by icons from Malkmus to Mascis. Similarities to the former are particularly obvious, with Twenty Five, Johnny’s Theme and Madonna in Love all très Pavement; a familiarity that on the one hand enhances their easy appeal, but on the other leaves the trio with a tough task asserting their own character.
In the end, the combined strength of their hooks and convictions comfortably pulls them through, with opener Headstrong finding them at their most effortlessly engaging, Nebraska piling on crunchy guitars to bristling effect, and Nikolai providing a quiet counterweight to the more pogo-friendly tempos deployed elsewhere. You might have heard it all before, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to hear it all again.