Ned Collette & Wirewalker - 2 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ned Collette & Wirewalker - 2

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2012-08-06

This second album from Australian, Berlin-Based melancholic songwriter Ned Collette mixes folky strumming and philosophical lyrics with experimental beats, musique concrete, Spanish guitar and gloopy 80s synths - and yes, it is often an uneasy combination, but intentionally so.

Opener 'Il Futuro Fantastico' reminds of both Leonard Cohen and Paul Heaton, with its lachrymose guitar-picking and allegory of a broken-down, selfish town. It fixes this determinedly downbeat tale to a churning Krautrock beat reminiscent of Portishead's Third before dissolving into ambient sound. It's impressive but also sets out this album's overall weakness: you respect much of this music rather than enjoy it. The lyrics are sometimes a little preachy and overworked ("You cannot feed the hungry just because they're right/ You cannot hide a massacre just because it's light") while the music feels a little too self-conscious to give itself up to anything you could call a tune.

However, that's not the say there aren't joys to be found on 2, it's just that you've got to persevere. 'The Hedonist' turns to Jacques Brel melodrama with some scintillating analogue synth window-dressing and ghostly female backing vocals, while 'Happy Heart' is a camp-fire strum-along. Meanwhile, Second track 'Stampy' has a lovely doped-up dreaminess, the kind Damon Albarn has spent the last 15 years perfecting. In fact, this album strongly recalls the folkier moments of Albarn's recent Dr Dee opera, especially in it's chilly autumnal feel and slightly irksome undercurrent of clever-clever self-satisfaction.

When Collette stops trying to how show au fait he is with a tricky time-signature, the album actually soars. 'How to Change a City' breaks into a lovely melody worthy of 80s, pop-positive Talking Heads before abruptly switching to a moody ambient guitar coda. Sticking to the 80s feel, the synth pads and acoustic finger-picking of the following 'The Decision' recalls nothing so much as Black's 'Wonderful Life'.

However, the major problem here, and throughout the album, is Collette's limited, linear vocals. He has a remorselessly flat singing style which works against the strong melodies his music occasionally throws out. The one time Collette makes a genuine strength out of his limitations is on album highlight 'Long You Lie', on which is brittle voice recalls post-heroin Marianne Faithful, sorrowful but unbowed. The music is no less extraordinary: starting with a Spanish guitar flourish before synths and toms crash in, then hitting the kind of exultant peak pop groups frequently competed to hit in the mid-80s. It's sexy, weird and, yes, clever - just like all great pop should be.

Listening to highpoints such as this, there's no doubting Collette's talent. So perhaps the real issue here is his apparently near-pathological need to prove how different and interesting his music can be. He needs to get passed this. 'Long You Lie' manages to pack in multiple styles and sounds without compromising its integrity and instant pop hit, while the likes of 'For Roberto' just feel like studio-based improvisations which have ended up on a the album because their maker prizes being unusual more than he does his genuine song-craft. He can do much better than this and hopefully he will on album three.

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