on 25 September 2006
I had been waiting for this LP with bated breath, as Ken's Touched is one of my favourite albums of all time. Touched was a consistently excellent record, with hardly a duff track. Soft Commands has maybe five or six great songs, but there are a couple of weak moments that prevent this from being a five starrer.
First track You Drew is lovely - interesting lyrics, well-constructed and with effective piano. It is similar to Jackson Browne and has a classic 70s feel. Any Love is a beaut, a lovely strummed intro and a great dynamic range to Ken's vocals. It's a song that goes to unexpected places and then comes back to a typical Ken killer chorus. Known Diamond is a pretty piano ballad, but is a bit too slow for only the third track. It breaks the flow of the album, which is a pity when the first two tracks are so good.
When U Find Someone has some great harmonies, but is too much of a Beach Boys pastiche vocal wise. Don't Die is a bit of a power pop by numbers plodder. The quality is upped with Let Me Do, which again has great vocals and a Maccaish feel. It is another unpredictable number, and this is a great strength.
For Your Sake is the most Posies-esque track. The verses build up the tension which is released with a glorious chorus. Je Vous En Prie is a lilting paean, it seems, to Ken's wife Dominique. It feels too personal, and to my ears sounds too stereotypically "French". I almost expected Rene from Allo Allo to appear on backing vocals.
You Become The Dawn is great - a well constructed and passionately sung track which even has reggae elements! It is good though! After a short instrumental track - Dawn of the Dub, Ken delivers a couple of corkers which redeem the LP as a whole. Cyclone Graves has subtle acoustic instrumentation and a beautiful chorus and harmonies. The last track, Death Of A City, is a piano based song with intriguing lyrics and a slanting, oblique melody.
So, that is Soft Commands. There are six brilliant songs, a few good ones and a couple of fillers. The lyrics are always interesting and the instrumentation is extremely varied. In fact, I think that Soft Commands is a tad too varied. It doesn't sustain the excellence throughout as Touched did, and is a CD I "dip into" rather than listen to all the way through. It would have been far stronger as a ten track LP. It is a grower though and you should buy itif you are a fan of great vocals, enthralling chord changes and beautifully put together classic pop songs. Phew!