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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 154 - 04/09/09

Mellow Drunk
One Thousand Lights
Vollwert

First things first: ignore the awful cover art. Rest assured that this album is much better than the cover would suggest. While there are guitar pyrotechnics aplenty, this music is about more than flashy fireworks. At its best, its charm lies in its subtly psychedelic take on jangly indie-pop, akin to The Clientele.

Aside from the cover, the album isn't helped by being frontloaded with weaker material. Opener "Cut Me To Pieces", while carried forward with garage-band gusto, doesn't really put the band's best foot forward. Single "From My Window" is up next, peddling a sweetly catchy but ultimately flimsy riff. "Low Life" is eerily reminiscent of '90s indie also-rans The Charlatans. A good thing? Depends on whether you feel like revisiting baggy indie grooves. "This Is No Dream" could be from any number of Britpop albums that line the racks of second-hand CD shops. So far so ordinary...

Thankfully, the album really gets going with "If Only I Could Change", a beautifully woozy song with chiming reverb-drenched guitars and organ, perfectly evoking that moment on a lazy afternoon when sunlight passing through a wineglass seems like the most incredible thing in the world. Leigh Gregory's wonderful delivery turns the song into something of a classic, ripe for repeat plays.

"It's Going To Be Alright" continues this high standard with its aching ebow line and confessional lyrical turn, forming a strong pair of songs at the album's heart. Around the halfway mark the song threatens to morph from a midtempo ballad into a psychedelic rocker, then backs off the gas before delivery an emotionally wrought crescendo at the song's climax. Brilliant.

The second half has its moments, but the quality control is all over the shop. "Day After Day" has a lazy sway that's faintly hypnotic, but is let down by weak lyrics. "Everything & Nothing" does the same trick better, wielding an easy charm, a glistening solo and flashes of guitar FX. "Butterfly" has forgettable verses, but the song veers almost into shoegaze territory, redeeming its more leaden passages with quicksilver flourishes and a satisfying climax.

"Seeker" fades in with a predictable indie-rock canter and some well-worn changes, but when the guitars warm up it sounds pretty cooking. And closer "Nostalgia" commences beautifully with some tremolo guitar and organ, then erupts into another forgettable rocker.

It's so frustrating to hear many of these songs teeter on the verge of brilliance, only to fall into cliché. But, despite being uneven both between and within songs, this is a promising album by a talented band. For the most part it strikes a pleasing balance between indie-rock, jangle pop and garage psych. If they can capitalise on the potential demonstrated in "If Only I Could Change", "It's Going To Be Alright" and the more exploratory moments in their other songs, this is a band to watch.

Copyright © 2009 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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