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Saturnine Songs

  The Search  


Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

It should come as no surprise, The Search's fourth album is their first masterpiece. And yet I have a question. If the words 'dark' and 'gloomy' follow these guys around so often, then why does this record make me so happy? Can it be that they've finally caught up with the rest of us? That at long last The Search have realized how good they are?

I had these tracks way in advance of the actual physical release. I love The Search, so I immersed myself into the new material, forsaking other music for the better part of two weeks. When I finally came up for air, it occurred to me that I had no idea of the correct running order. So I began to play a game with myself, a game familiar to any would-be musician, producer or DJ or indeed anyone who read and enjoyed Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, recognizing themselves in that main character. The game of course, was sequence. Which songs would The Search position where? Where would I put them? To open the album I looked no further than the sweeping, epic Yes Man. Yes Man has a similar structure and effect to Dazzle by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Like Dazzle, Yes Man begins with a lush string elegy before roaring into indie pop. It is profoundly wrong footing yet equally as satisfying. Here the artist rallies against the system. Subvert or convert? Give up or give in? Take the red pill or the blue pill?

"They're watching you. You know."

Suffice to say, Yes Man is brilliant and I was completely wrong. As it turned out The Search placed Yes Man at the end of Saturnine Songs, not at the beginning. Well, some you win, some you lose! They proved me right about one thing at least that THEY are a terrific band. Up until now The Search have had two main faults. Firstly, they are too modest. Secondly, in early guises they were arguably too transparently in thrall to their musical heroes. They never hid it. This was part of their charm, undoubtedly, but on Deranged Minds Unite their writing skill began to match their crystalline sound. Now, on Saturnine Songs, they've put it all together. Originality, great songs, impressive variety and last but not least a beautiful sound courtesy of dual production duties (more on which later).

The remarkable thing is The Search believe they are a dark band. Like us, they are drawn to that side of alternative music. Yet I regard them as light of touch and mood. Of the twelve songs here only Netherworld is overtly routed in strange imagery. Much of the rest deals with real-life relationship anguish and guilt. These lyrics are closer to Elvis Costello than Robert Smith. Another thing that struck me, this time musically, was the chorus to Song For A Boy, Friends With Toys. How did they write that? It's beyond my comprehension how they did it. Fabulous.

As mentioned, a sign of the band's growing confidence perhaps was their choice of handing split studio duties to two contrasting producers. Elof Loelv provides the pop sheen, blisteringly effective on tracks like Woman in the Corner and Distant. Meanwhile Jeniferever's Kristofer Jonson lends the other half of the record a shimmering ambience. Jonson's influence is clearest on the opening bars of You Seek Approval in the Wrong People, which calls to mind his own band's colossal From Across The Sea. He is also responsible for my personal favourite track from this or any Search record; Rapunzel. Is she a Fairy Tale or real life vixen? Let's relish in the ambiguity.

The Search are a fan's dream and a critic's nightmare. They have not yet received the attention they deserve because jobbing, career writers can't find an angle. But as Pete Shelley once said, if an artist makes a truly great record, it will be heard.

The Search have. So hear it.

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Also on EvilSponge:
   Album: The Search
   Compilation: Bloodbathe & Bazaar of Lush Loose Limbs
   Album: Deranged Minds Unite


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