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The Boy With The Bubblegun Hits The Target Again...,
This review is from: Just Like Blood (Audio CD)
Not a lot of people have heard of Tom McRae. But don't let that fool you. His late-2000 self-titled debut blows other British acoustic artists such as Badly Drawn Boy and David Gray completely out of the water, drawing obvious comparisons to Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Its early days, but on the basis of this, McRae will better all three.
The album opens with 'A Day Like Today', and with the very first line "Welcome back says the voice on the radio / but I never left I was always right here" you can almost feel the smirk on McRae's face as the chinking melody chime perfectly over swooning keyboards, climaxing in a crashing chorus in which McRae wishes he could "love you to death...": a minute into the album and you're hooked. The next track 'You Only Disappear' is the pride of the collection, McRae's voice tears through your very soul as he delivers possibly his finest vocal performance to date, the drums reverb over a sweeping sea of sound, before the storm calms and the album nestles into the quieter 'Ghost Of A Shark'; another triumph. The quietest song on the album, it is perfectly measured along with the following jazz-tinged 'Stronger Than Dirt'. Both lead on to 'Overthrown' an unusual electric effort, McRae's voice is distorted to drive home the frustration and confusion espoused within the track. Halfway through the album you're wondering whether it can really get any better. The next song does exactly that.
Walking2Hawaii is vying to be the best song on the lp, indeed the opening verse "falling feels like flying 'till you hit the ground / and everything is beautiful 'till you take a look around / so let it go..." is as beautifully poetic as he has ever written. The soundscape here is as close to perfect as your ears will ever experience, the Oli Krauss' cello pulls and throws you over Tom's gorgeous arpeggio's and the song leaves you quite breathless - quite apt considering the final verse (buy it to see what I mean!). This is proceeded by the stunning 'Mermaid Blues' if only for the cello chaos, and single 'Karaoke Soul', the 'A&B Song' of the album, demanding his enemies 'hold me close when you stick in the knife". Chilling stuff indeed.
The album concludes with the hushed, gentle 'Human Remains', a perfect conclusion to an almost-faultless album, it cleverly fades into silence with McRae asking you to "tell me whats next?". With that the album opens with a wish and closes with a question. Over the 10 tracks it pins you against a wall and challenges you to dare not even breathe for fear of missing a note. Its not as bleak and raw as the debut (Blur & Elbows Ben Hillier takes production credits) but an ambitious relocating of the goal-posts. Its flawless in its execution, with 'Just Like Blood' McRae establishes himself as perhaps the superior lyricist - word-smith more concisely - of his generation. You know, more people should know about Tom McRae. A lot more people...