Title: Pure White Speed
Formed in London, and comprising Charlie Finke, pianist Justine Armatage, drummer Jan Noble and an all woman wind section (no names, no pack drill). Their debut, Cesarians 1, was released in 2009. They have an art rock/experimental reputation. Let’s see.
This album arrived in two parts. One CD labelled X and another labelled Y. I assume both will be contained in a single package.
The first track on X, Post War Blues, has a Nick Cave-like tone but never takes off. It, rather, bumps along the runway to crash in a pile of hay and a burst of flame. The album title track, Pure White Speed improves matters, mixing piano, strings and treated vocals to produce neo-classical mood music that is partly meditative. Good, not great but positive.
This Way returns to the first track mediocrity. What was threatening to happen here was an increasingly disturbing pattern. One of atmospheric strings trying and failing to lift the kitsch, overly serious, cabaret vocals towards an edge…any edge. Instead, we have a karaoke delivery that should really be fronting the next stage production of Oliver! So I dumped This Way and went that way.
Track five, Control, began like a U2 song, building slowly before a promising, bending vocal launched the track into an appealing arrangement although Finke bombards us, again, with a slice of cliched lyrics plus some clunky vocal frills. When he backs off, though, the rest of the band theaten to sound promising.
For Y, Meltdown sounds like Finke is in his ‘pretend metalhead’ mode. Imagine an unshaven grandad, wearing a leather jacket that’s too big for him, no teeth and a bemused look on his face.
She Said is particular tired. No one wins on this one. This is cardboard cut-out inadequacy. It lacks invention and inspiration.
Conclusion? Push Finke into the next taxi or, better still, transfer him to the nearest Stephen Sondheim matinee. Then the rest of the band can do a proper job. Possibly. But don’t hold me to that.