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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 27 February 2003
Turin Brakes' last album, The Optimist LP, was something of an unexpected success for a twosome who do little publicity, don't have Hollywood girlfriends and haven't sold their music to advertisers. Many of the reviews struggled to pinpoint exactly what the extraordinary USP was of a guitar band writing poignant, lyrical melodies - hardly groundbreaking stuff, after all, and not a million miles from Travis, Coldplay et al. But somehow their particular brand of sweping emotionalism, folksy vocal harmonies and original songwriting added up to more than the sum of its parts, and The Optimist LP quite rightly collected accolades left, right and centre.
So now comes the 'difficult' second album, and for fans of Turin Brakes' first it may be a little disappointing. The layered, sweeping, studio-produced heartstring-tugging melodies are more or less absent, save from Long Distance (released as a single for that very reason), making way for a less polished, sparser sound on many of the tracks, some of which are positively cheery (think Flowers in the Window as opposed to Writing to Reach You). And indeed the boys say that's the sound they were going for, recording many of the tracks in only a couple of takes.
There's less of the Thom-York-esque cracked heartbreak and a little more of the slightly bizarre lyrics (singing 'now there's a river!' to yourself at top volume in the car can feel a little odd, however wildly emotional the track feels).
Ether Song is by no means a major disappointment, and shows the band exploring new sounds and moving forward. But it may be that in trying not to become bogged down in the same old sound, as Travis have, they have lost sight of the moving, emotional honesty that made their first album so extraordinary.
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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