Codeine Velvet Club - Codeine Velvet Club - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Codeine Velvet Club - Codeine Velvet Club

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2009-12-28

Titling one of your side project's songs 'Vanity Kills' may be a neat way of heading off criticism, but, frankly, Jon Lawler has too much riding on this release to be flippant or ungracious. As The Fratellis' alpha spiv, he was identified as a chief exponent of landfill indie and black listed by several leading music mags keen to show how 'with it' they were by heaping praise on some ladies making the kind of tinny synthpop Marc Almond would have considered passé in 1983.

This album should go some way to redressing that state of affairs. It's Sandy Shaw-does-Bacharach vibe, all lush yet restrained strings and cantering drums, is quite obviously in debt to Alex Turner and Miles Kane's The Last Shadow Puppets, while the combination of its swinging 60s sound with Lou Hickey's monochrome cool vocals strongly recalls Stuart Murdoch's recent God Help the Girl project. So there's nothing earth-shattering here, but most of it is really enjoyable. Opener and single 'Hollywood' is a Cuban heel-stomping, fringe-flicking anthem. Recalling the late-60s sounds of Stax and Motown, it's the kind of thing James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers likes to bash out when he isn't hobbled by Nicky Wire's abominable 'poetry'. 'Nevada' likewise beguiles, as hazy and dusty as a song of that name should be. 'I Would Send You Roses', meanwhile, hits its strung out soul target absolutely dead on and reminds you why this style of music will always sound so potent.

Problems occur when Lawler attempts to shoulder too many vocal duties. His voice has an inescapably oily, greasy quality which brings songs like 'Little Sister' down to the level of pub rock with pretensions. Thankfully, he stays off the mic for most the time, which is just as well since it gives Hickey the chance to emerge as the record's star, her lightness-of-touch dancing over songs such as 'Time', which progresses from starry-eyed ballad to cod-mariachi to cod-psychedelic freak out. It shouldn't work but it does. Pure showbiz, in the best possible sense.

One major quibble: what is a cover of The Stone Roses' 'I Am the Resurrection' doing on here as a 'bonus track'? It's chirpy xylophone and John Barry-isms only serve to highlight the rinky-dink faux-flower power naffness which always lurked within the Roses. That aside, this is a fine album. It may be almost over, but 2009 has managed to give us one last pleasant surprise.

Richard Morris

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