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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 88 - 12/08/03

J Xaverre
These Acid Stars
Memphis Industries

J Xaverre (pronounced z-av-ier) is an ancient Mayan curse. We had Mr. Xaverres's second EP Saturday on the menu a few moonths ago. It wasn't cursed at all and we awaited the forthcoming album. After some logistic misunderstandings in the Oslo area, here his debut album is finally served, at least one moonth late.

In the beginning I found the album less varied than expected. It's first and foremost a pure pop album with some singer songwriter elements. Memphis Industries claims "These Acid Stars touches on all bases from John Martyn to The Incredible String Band to, yes, Paul McCartney's early solo work". Apart from John Martyn I don't really know about that. To these ears, there are neither many folk nor psychedelic leanings on the album. It's the production that really stands out. Spiced with bits of discreet noise, if ever it existed, surprising instrumental sounds and ditto mix. "Wild Weekend" for instance might have served as a straight singalong number, but distorted vocals, rhythm patterns up front and sparse instrumentation during parts of the song make it one of a kind. And at first I thought the quiet stormy sounds of the laid-back "Bingo Wings" were something going on outside my window.

After some spinnings the 12 songs begin to crystallise in different shapes. I find the opening track and previously reviewed "Saturday" off the aforementioned EP among the weakest. The title track from J Xaverre's very first EP Great All Great on the other hand is a half ballad, half power-pop goodie. The one-man-band is augmented with beautiful vocals by Lea Doherty on several songs. Her divine voice on "Sports Day, 1983" has kept spinning in my head for a while. The string quartet at the end of "Fires" also stands out. Exquisite! "Horse Operas" is great ballad stuff, whereas "The Ballad of J Xaverre" is partly ballad and partly classic pop. "Nilsong" and "I Promised Myself" are fine examples of the singer songwriter stuff with a twist. The only problem is the lyrics. They're not printed in the booklet and not available on the Memphis home page either. I haven't a clue what he is singing about.

The overall impression - and the electric piano and pace of "Stuck Between Daydreaming And Somewhere Else" in particular - made me consider J Xaverre as a kind of English Steely Dan (without the slick jazz-rock) for a different decade. These Acid Stars doesn't deliver quite what the variety of the Saturday EP promised. Instead we're in for a full-blown cunningly played and produced pop album for people beyond their teens. Which doesn't imply AOR, mind you!

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