Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
Fantastic album from the UKs most under-rated band...
on 9 October 2004
I was fortunate to see Blue States at a London show recently. I thought they'd disappeared off the scope and always wondered what became of them since I loved Nothing changes Under the Sun.
My how they've changed! They're an indie band these days. But the strange thing is that they don't sound like Chill Out also rans changing direction out of desperation (which maybe they are!) but in fact they sound like a world class indie band at the peak of their powers (like it's that easy!) The beautiful arrangements that made NCUTS such a success are still there but with addition of co-writer Chris Carr what we have are real songs with real depth.
The lush orchestrastion that threatened to suffocte many of the tracks on second album Man Mounatain is used far more cleverly with the majority of the album made up of dark guitar and synth led arrangements with vocals on 7 of 10 tracks that recall the best parts about the 80s. (glorious yet sensitive). Chris Carr's voice I would best descirbe as a cross between Ian Curtis and Julian Cope. It's wonderfully British with an almost provocative tone coupled a with a wonderfully fractured lyriscism. Since Dragazis excels at painting beautiful soundscapes the pairing works brilliantly.
There are still instrumentals on the Soundings but they are cleverly blended into the vocal tracks which results in a real album experience as opposed to a collection of songs (something the current crop of supposed best British bands should take note of!) Best example of this is One Night on Tulane into The Last Blast where an almost Japanese Whispers era Cure sounding instrumental lures in a beautifully picked acoustic ballad that builds to a rousing chorus outro with layer after layer of vocal harmonies recalling Loaded era Velvet Underground. Magnificent and one of many goose-bump inducing moments. Another would have to be the closer (Sad Song) where the melancholy ascends to heart breaking levels as a full orchestra crashes in for a finale that the Flaming Lips would kill for.
Every track on the Soundings is genuinely fantastic and displays a considered approach to the writing which is rare these days. Also the prevailing themes of love and loss manage to avoid the trap of sounding preachy and patronising. This is much to do with the way Carr leaves a lot to the imagination with curious lyrical couplets and the omission of certain nouns in much the same way as Neil Young writes. Delivered with a convincing passion the effect conjures a myriad of images and succeeds in giving the Soundings an other-worldly quality. More importantly it makes the album listenable in almost any scenario!
I can see why some fans of Nothing Changes might dislike this album but then if you only have sample based instrumental down-tempo in your record collection and don't like well written vocal songs as well you shouldn't buy this album. It's that simple.
I enjoy more than one kind of music and it's refreshing that Blue States do as well and are keen to show it. I just wish more bands would show some guts and change their sound instead of recording the same album twice and cashing in on the same tired old formula (they know who there are!)
Blue States are a great band - certainly the most innovative in the UK at the moment and for me the Soundings just gets better with every listen.
I can't see this album leaving my CD player for a long time!