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  From the Ground Up  
  Shady Bard  
  Static Caravan  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  

From The Ground Up is one of those albums I've been meaning to review for ages. I remember playing it quite a bit a couple of years ago and almost putting pen to paper (Brendan's Note: Do you really write these out long hand before typing them up and emailing them to me? Perhaps a better phrase would be "almost opening my word processor" or something like that.), but I never got round to it. I do recall having some slight problem with it, thinking that the voice let it down somewhat. Listening to it again now, I thought I'd either got it wrong or changed my mind. The voice works well on the opening track, Fires, a track that brings to mind the Angels Of Light Sing Other People, even if it doesn't quite pack the same level of intensity as that Michael Gira classic. Still, it really is a good opening number augmented by some rather nice tinkling piano.

By the time I've listened to the two tracks that follow, Bobby and These Quiet Times, the problem with the singer Lawrence Becko's voice had, however, started to re-appear despite the latter number's lovely chord sequence. Indeed there are some rather good songs here, a number of which benefit from a nice use of cello from Alex Housden. There are also some surprising moments - by the time we reached Treeology, five numbers in, we're so firmly in mid-paced country, it's something of a shock when the drums burst in a minute or so in, to be followed soon after by some pretty savage guitar playing. This is a trick that Shady Bard use again on the almost Radiohead-like Penguins when they somehow manage to take you by surprise by suddenly coming on like The Sound.

Overall, however, with the odd exception such as Torch Song, which features some really pretty piano playing, and the aforementioned Fires, I keep having a problem with that voice it just sounds too deliberately cracked for my liking. It's almost as if the emotion is just that bit too calculated and leaves me thinking that Becko has been studying Tindersticks a little too much. I should add, however, this is purely a personal view. Some critics wet themselves over this album, but personally I think the closing Summer Came When We Were Falling Out benefits from the effects that have been added to Becko's voice. As a result, when he sings "I wish you were here with me today" over a simple repeated riff on the vibes, it somehow sounds altogether more heartfelt.

Still, it's obvious there's promise here, and a quick wander over to their myspace page allows us a quick preview of their new single, Trials Part III. It's a promising snippet, with the band having gone for a more urgent Latin-sounding arrangement and Becko sounding altogether less mannered.

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