The Complete Short Stories - Perfectly Still - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Complete Short Stories - Perfectly Still

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2011-04-18

This album from London-based seven-piece folk harmony group The Complete Short Stories is an exercise in restraint, with the implied drama of the lyrics resounding in the spaces left by the often admirably sparse, crisp production on songs such as the down-at-heel 'Two Acrobats'. All of which makes Perfectly Still a very worthwhile Sunday morning record, or perhaps even a break-up record if you're not feeling too cut up about how things turned out.

To the casual listener, Perfectly Still will probably sound like perfect dinner party fodder, but there's enough going on beneath the gloss to keep you paying attention. 'Fish Food's bizarre lyrics suggest this is not a band who should be consigned to Radio 2's play list: "If I fed you my brain/ and you fed me your brain/ would your brain be my brain/ would my brain be yours?" I mean, what? Moments like this remind one of early Beautiful South, a band who coated spiky political comment and surreal lyrics in MOR pop fluff, the better to smuggle them into the nation's record collections. Also reminiscent of Paul Heaton's former group is TCSS' ability to write adult love songs - that is, love songs for adults rather than anything racy or pornographic. Both 'Struggle On' and 'Burn' (sample lyric: "At the end I wished you dead/ I'm gonna set you on fire/ in the summer/ not gonna keep you warm/ any longer") look at failing relationships in an impressively honest way.

If there is a problem with Perfectly Still, then it's all a matter of taste. Which is to say, this music is frequently a little too tasteful. There's no doubt that here with have a collection of musicians how can cut loose when they want to. 'Circus' initially seems a bit too mannered for that title, but then the group chuck in some tumbling percussion, atonal guitar and squealing synth which just stops short of being frenzied, and you glimpse some fire behind the poise. Other songs, such as opener 'A Million Ways', walk a fine line between skilful pop and annoying cuteness, sometimes hopping blithely across it. Mostly, they get it right. However, the fact remains that this a band you can imagine Jools Holland salivating over on Later...

Ultimately, Perfectly Still is just a little too samey, the vocals of singer Kerry Adamson a touch too anodyne. Their tendency towards quirkiness is counterbalanced by another, often stronger, impulse towards blandness, and they never quite achieve a balance across this debut album. However, there's enough good stuff here to convince you this is a band worth keeping an eye on, just in case they go on to craft some kind of great alt-pop statement.

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