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Monday, September 06, 2004

Verlaines -- Bird Dog

Getting into the Flying Nun set now:

The Verlaines' Bird Dog is generally considered their masterpiece, so it's my starting point for them. It is a strong album, full of great pop hooks. The Jam are closest Northern Hemisphere touchpoint I can find -- there's something slightly mod-ish about the Verlaines, and Graeme Downes has a bit of Paul Weller in his delivery. The album's one failing is the Gregorian-like chanting on "Icarus Failed." I applaud the effort, but it comes out more like a general weirdness than anything interesting, except maybe as an obvious point of the co-existence of classical and popular influences on Downes's writing. I enjoy the Weller influence more than the Mahler, though. Give me those hooks, and let the oboes and odd instrumentation take a supporting role. The group's aesthetic commands attention, but I suspect that the songs would stand up well if they were just performed by Downes on an acoustic guitar. The standout track here is "Bird Dog," with its rousing barroom chorus hiding an intelligent narrative, which is somehow echoed by the outro. I'm not sure that I'm ready to put this one on my essentials list, but it certainly worth keeping around.


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