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Pretty as a "Picture"
on 31 December 2005
The Buffseeds, a U.K. indie-rock band, are only just entering the music scene. But their full-length debut "Picture Show" is a very pretty album. Kieran Scragg's falsetto can be a bit distracting, but what comes after is a light, pensive little mix of rock and ballads.
A rhythm comes into the album from the very start: It opens with the sparkling, airy pop of "Sparkle Me." It's laid-back, but soars every now and then, on the back of a beautiful keyboard melody. On the other hand, "Casino" is gloom-rock, still soaring and exquisitely multilayered, given a few extra shoves with the echoing bass.
After that, the Buffseeds alternate between midtempo rock songs and ethereal pop ditties, both written to bittersweet lyrics about love, loss and loneliness. The latter sound a bit like Turin Brakes mixed with a bit of Mandalay -- very smooth and a bit folky, but laced with melancholy electronica.
Vocally, what news is there? At times it sounds like Scragg is torn between wanting to be Thom Yorke and Billy Corgan -- the music is more like Radiohead, but when the music swells, and he's really into what he's doing he lets rip like Corgan. It made me think, "Steady, boy, calm down."
That vague confusion is the only thing that keeps the Buffseeds' debut from being really outstanding. It needs a bit more musical complexity and passion -- THEN it will be really good. As it is, the midtempo rockers don't quite measure up to the airy, swirling Hammond ballads. They're pretty good and bittersweetly beautiful, but they're not quite there yet.
Kieran Scragg sounds completely androgynous here -- he may be the first singer I have heard with gender-bending vocals. Sometimes he sounds like a fey man, sometimes like a woman. It suits the shoegazer pop better than it does the rock songs, where he sounds like the music is going too fast for him to follow.
When the Buffseeds solidify their sound, then they will be an excellent band. Their debut "Picture Show" is a pretty, airy pop collection, and if the wrinkles were ironed out it would be outright beautiful.