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S. Airey (Edinburgh, Scotland)
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The Civil Wars
The Civil Wars
Price: £5.95

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More is less, 25 Nov. 2013
This review is from: The Civil Wars (Audio CD)
Second albums are a notoriously risky business; and not just for the band. Purchasing the successor to a much loved album is a bit like returning to the restaurant which had once served The Best Meal Ever. It can only disappoint. The butter is too cold, the room is too hot, the thrice-cooked chips are limp, the waiter is having a bad day, and the bill has shifted from extravagance to exploitation.

I love the Civil Wars' first album 'Barton Hollow'. I'd defy anyone to not like it. The lusciously yearning, intertwining vocal talents of Joy Williams and John Paul White soar over sparse raw acoustic instrumentation. The effect is at times heart-achingly beautiful, at times visceral: grabbing you by the innards and hurling you down to Nashville.

Simplicity is its strength. In many of the songs the only other voice is that of a steel string guitar. The recipe is perfect: it's a steaming great bucket of bitter-sweet, finger-pickin goodness.

So it was with some trepidation that I started listening to this new offering; longing for that perfect balance of 'the same' and 'different'. Some of 'the same' is here - soaring voices, acoustic guitar, brooding lyrics. But the 'different' is the wrong flavour of different. They add instruments, a precocious screeching electric guitar unnecessarily opening 'I had me a girl'. Even, unforgivably, a drum machine intruding on 'Dust to Dust'. It feels overproduced and loses intensity, creating a sense that more is sometimes less.

It's less consistent as an album too - more consciously playing with styles and ideas. On 'Sacred heart', Williams sings in French. Rather than accentuating her breathy come-hither vocals it tips into parody and just makes me giggle. 'From this valley' is overly jaunty and jars with the rest of the album.

Songs like 'Eavesdrop', 'Devil's backbone' and 'Tell Mamma' are on more solid ground. But... And here it's hard not to be influenced by the knowledge that Williams and White stopped touring after the first album due to "irreconcilable difference of ambition". Almost unconsciously I have made sense of this by construing her as the over ambitious pushy one and him as an easy going family man. This caricature is reinforced by the dominance of her voice on the album. White is barely audible in those three tracks. It creates an emotional imbalance - less vocal intertwining and more spotlight seeking whining. I've taken his side in the dispute. More Joy gives me less.

This is probably why it's the few songs where he gets equal billing that are my favourites: the haunting, stripped back cover of 'Disarm' and the strong opening track 'The one that got away' which plays on the (now somewhat marred) emotional connection between them.

The albums ends with 'D'Arline'. Hushed intimacy and staccato guitar bring those voices back to the fore. Recorded on a mobile phone; it's a hymn to simplicity and the glories of the past.

Overall, it isn't that it's bad. It's just that the first meal was so damn good.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2014 9:53 AM BST


Duronic USB1AB Single 1000mA USB AC Mains UK Charger for Amazon Kindle, mobile phone, iPad, eBook + More
Duronic USB1AB Single 1000mA USB AC Mains UK Charger for Amazon Kindle, mobile phone, iPad, eBook + More
Offered by DURONIC
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Works, 4 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought this for £3.50. Works great and allows me to charge my phone or USB player at home and carry a smaller one around with me in my pocket. It hasn't got too hot or caused me any concerns about it's safety. Quite bulky though, but fine for home use. Great price.


Spyderco  Tri-Angle Sharp Maker Knife and Tool Sharpener
Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharp Maker Knife and Tool Sharpener
Price: £51.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works brilliantly, 17 Nov. 2011
I've had one of these for a couple of years. If you've got semi-decent knives it is definitely worth the investment. I use the white stones regularly which does away with the need for a honing steel. I then give them a more thorough resharpening every few months or so. This regime keeps them really sharp. Keep in mind though, if you've got rubbish knives, there's only so much any sharpening tool can do.


Acctim 71363 Cinque Radio Controlled Alarm Clock, Black
Acctim 71363 Cinque Radio Controlled Alarm Clock, Black

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine as long as you don't snooze lots!, 15 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Good points:
1. big, clear display that lights up effectively when you press the button but isn't so bright it lights up the room
2. radio controlled means that it keeps the correct time (it adjusted itself when the clocks changed last month)
3. nice size - not too tiny, not too big. (nb - a bit too large to use as a travel alarm though)
4. buttons feel fairly solid

Bad points
1. you can only press snooze a certain number of times (I think it's 4) and then it switches itself off! What's the point of that?! Is it some kind of reverse psychology to stop you relaxing into over-snoozing? Who wants to have to keep count?!
2. doesn't feel very substantial in your hand.


Panasonic KXTG7123ES Digital Cordless Telephone With Answering Machine Triple Pack
Panasonic KXTG7123ES Digital Cordless Telephone With Answering Machine Triple Pack

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value but a few unexpected disappointments, 28 Nov. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
GOOD POINTS

The call quality, range and battery life are excellent. The ability to copy the phone book between handsets is handy (wouldn't have bought a multi set that didn't have this as I would have found it too frustrating). The speakerphone works really well and is surprisingly useful - e.g. when negotiating menu systems, waiting on hold, encouraging little children to talk to grandparents. The intercom feature is pretty cool - though it would be useful if you could "name" the phones with "kitchen", "study", etc. rather than just having to remember which phone is which number (they are numbered 1 to 3 and if you are holding phone 1 and press intercom it gives you the option of calling phone 2 or 3).

£60 for 3 phones and an answering machine seems very good value to me (John Lewis were selling it for £100). I went for the free delivery option and it still arrived in a few days. They were very easy to set up and use.

NOT SO GOOD POINTS

There is no "quick dial" function. Our previous Panasonic phone had this (i.e. can program your most used numbers from the phonebook such that you just hold down "1" and it dials your Mum). I didn't even think to check, I just assumed all phones had this these days. When you don't have it you realise how much you used it!

The LED light on the top of the phone is on whenever the phone is in the cradle charger. This is really annoying if you want a phone in your bedroom! Is bright enough to cast a yellow light around the room. End up having to store the phone off the charger at night but remembering to put it back on periodically so it doesn't run the battery down. A minor issue in the bigger scheme of things but irritating none the less.

If there is some solution to the above two points that I haven't found I'd be grateful if someone could leave a comment and let me know!

I find the rubbery buttons a bit dissatisfying to use. You're not always sure if you've pressed it and they don't inspire confidence about their durability (a bit like the early spectrum computer rubber keyboards... remember those?). Not sure why they chose this style when most mobile phones have very durable buttons that have a satisfying little click when pressed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2008 2:31 PM BST


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