England - Full Moon 153 - 03/11/09
The Shadow Kabinet
Smiling Worlds Apart
I should've finished the review of this album for last moon's menu, but fell ill and had to postpone it. Luckily! Like most great albums, Smiling Worlds
Apart is a grower. It appears as an album heavily influenced by the psychedelic 1960s. At first I was quite disappointed. Only a handful of tracks belong
in the psych bag, in my humble opinion. Instead I think the album is influenced by the best of the 1960s music as such. Melodic, though you don't get tired
or bored by the songs after a few spins. Quite the opposite.
The Shadow Kabinet is a one man band and Steve Somerset sings in the John Lennon tradition, to some extent. Here are traces of George Harrison as well, within
and without the Beatles, and other 1960s music harder to pin down, and a little bit of vintage Bowie and Roxy Music (they were also inspired by the melodic
60s, of course). The album opens and ends with some great 60s flavoured pop songs that are hummable and preserve or improve your high spirits. Pop songs that
keep spinning in the head in a non annoying way. For instance "What Am I Supposed To Do?" sounds like Lennon in fine form with Harrison on a nice slide guitar.
"Office Life" is a mysterious cross between Roxy of the 70s and underground hero Martin Newell of the 80s (if you haven't heard about Martin, check out Giles
Smith's wonderful book Lost In Music about playing with Martin and the outskirts of music biz). "Oh Poor Me" is the resigned singer-songwriter number,
only accompanied by an acoustic guitar or two whereas "Just As Lost As Me" is a piano-driven merry sort of number with some tasteful guitar work, especially
that slide again.
With track no. 6 "Sylvia The Psychic" the album moves into murkier waters. The song sounds like a psychedelic breed of Lennon's/Beatles' "Hey Bulldog" and
"Bungalow Bill" (!) with sitars and all, believe it if you can. "Tabla Motown" (great title!) is an instrumental Indian folk gem interspersed with a strange
string quartet arranged by a psychedelic genius. It's all Steve! My personal favourite of the lot. "Between Two Worlds" is the "Tomorrow Never Knows" of the
album, drone stuff, only a little too short to be hypnotic. The title track on the other hand moves towards heavier prog-psych; guitars all over the place.
This section is rounded off with the harmonic pop-in-the-Byrds-vein "The Strings Of Her Sitar". Good time!
Next we're in for something completely different. "Surfing On The Shadows" is just what the title says: a guitar instrumental of the early 60s surf/Shadows
kind. It feels quite out of place here, but good clean fun all the same. But we're in for worse: "Bad Hair Day", do-wop with leanings towards music hall is
even more out of place. "Is She?" sounds too merry, whereas "Take It Now" seems so forced sincere I really don't believe in it. Just as I wondered if Steve
was about to loose his grip, he strikes back with "When Winter Comes To England",a beautiful laid-back ballad with an elegant string arrangement. Here, of
course, he sounds as English as can be. All in all he is at his very best when he takes advantage of his Englishness and brings it into his songs.
Well then, two or three songs shorter and Smiling Worlds Apart would've been close to perfection. Available through
Heyday Mail Order.
Copyright © 2009 JP