|1. No Direction Home|
|2. Gods and Monsters|
|3. Over My Shoulder|
|4. An Ordinary Girl|
|5. The Stars look Familiar|
|6. Strange Without You|
|8. Hong Kong Lullaby|
|9. Sand and Glue|
|10. Avenue of Hope|
|11. Dead Menís Cigarettes|
|13. I Believe|
Initial single "Over My Shoulder" is the most commercial thing here, but the rest of the album is equally excellent, rocking (opener "No Direction Home"), cynical (the bitter title track,) and mysterious ("An Ordinary Girl", reminiscent of Freaks-era Pulp) in equal measures. However, it's the second half of the album, with the divine "Avenue of Hope" that pushes the album into the five-star category.
Between the bittersweet delivery by Bramwell, and the suitably sparse production, this album exudes a charm that's rarely heard today--lyrics far more interesting than anything Chris Martin or Kelly Jones write, and melodies strong enough to stand alone without any window-dressing. It's a testament to the power of the band that this album is as affecting- and essential- as Leonard Cohen or Tindersticks. --Thom Allott
The trio arrangement has been very quietly infiltrated, with additional discreet keyboards, for example in opening track "No Direction Home". The album as a whole has a more spacious feel to it, with more use of shimmering moments for their own beautiful sake. The piano takes on a more central role, leading to the first instrumental they've done -"Hong Kong Lullaby" -which is a simple ethereal play on a Chinese scale.
One of the highlights of the album is the upbeat "Dead Men's Cigarettes", which are smoked whilst choking on 'bitter black regrets'. Insults come thick and fast on "Over My Shoulder"- 'I didn't care who knew me then, and someone stupid asked if we were friends'.
"Avenue Of Hope" manages to mixpersonal jibes with northern, urban evocations; 'You're like the clouds in my hometown, you just grow fat and hang around'. There's also the incongruous but now familiarly Kloot Spanish feel to the strummed guitar and piano solo, giving a sunny feel which is quickly dashed by a mournful, muted trumpet solo.
The driving drums of "Ordinary Girl" summon a feeling of dread for whatever happened to the girl who thought she was less vulnerable than she was... Similarly, "Sand And Glue" hurls anger against the wall, with a relentless driving verse. But there are moments of kindness in "The Stars Look Familiar" and "Astray" where the solo introspective ballad by John alone on guitar is very reminiscent of Natural History's "Fear of Falling".
The final track is the heart swelling "I Believe" - 'in the Hallelujah chorus of the shopping malls' which proves all is well inI Am Kloot land. The bell rings out as the album closes, demonstrating, as ever, there's hope in the arguments, 'the radiation', and the love. --Lucy Davies
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