As a fan of the final Pale Saints album, "Slow Buildings," I had greater hopes for this offshoot EP than the average Pale Saints listener. "Slow Buildings" is shamefully unappreciated, and its primary single, "Fine Friend," is a good example of how Pale Saints were able to successfully evolve beyond the departure of their longtime bassist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Ian Masters. The song drifts along beautifully and sadly on a strummed acoustic guitar, with airy electric lead guitar adding to the atmosphere. Guitarist/vocalist Meriel Barham completes the mood with a resigned and regretful vocal performance: "I'm much too tired of all this/and this is wearing me...thin." But her trademark detachment keeps the song from being melodramatic or self-pitying. The listener is drawn into her sorrows without being repelled by any "woe is me" sap. She allows the overall sound and the excellent production from Hugh Jones to do their work, painting a picture of unrequited or unfinished love: "I'll never walk into your heart."
But "Fine Friend" appears on the album itself, and the rest of this EP doesn't do much to inspire confidence. "Special Present" is an interesting twist, and as far as I know, the only Pale Saints track to feature new bassist Colleen Browne (formerly of the Heartthrobs) on lead vocals. It's got good verse guitar work and an intriguing bridge, but has an obnoxious introduction that doesn't fit the rest of the song, and ultimately overstays its welcome. I don't think it required all of its seven or so minutes to do what it set out to do. "Marimba" is frankly boring: it's as if Barham came up with a halfway decent acoustic guitar idea, and in the absence of anything else, recorded it as a b-side with some flute, hummed vocal sounds, and samples of children playing put in the background. It drags for several listless minutes. Finally, "Reprise" just takes the edge out of the final chorus repetitions in "Fine Friend," (by removing the drums and electric guitar) adding a reverb echo to the harmonized voices of Barham and Browne, and that's it. We get the end of "Fine Friend" repeated in this fashion for several measures before fade out.
A good album like "Slow Buildings" should have produced better than this EP. Get that if you don't already have it and leave this for the die-hard completist Pale Saints fans.