Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: About Group - Start and Complete

In 2008 Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip fame created muso super-group About Group and released debut album "Rubbed Out" to critical acclaim. The premise for the project was to capture the experimentalism of a group in its infancy. 2011's follow up "Start and Complete" maintains this trajectory. Taylor uses the same approach Bruce Springsteen used in the recording of "Darkness on the Edge of Town". The band are only given the chords to the songs in suitable time, for them not to now the material at the time of recording. Inevitably with such an approach there are some interesting notes scattered throughout the songs, as the band create their parts live in the studio.

The album, for the most part is a collection of rather slow burning alt-country numbers and repeated listening is required to get past the initial inertia.  The songs were recorded in Abbey Road in one day with bass overdubs added later. The spectre of The Beatles, must have been in the studio because the album has their signature, latter day blues feel to it, on tracks such as "Lay Me Down" Even more so on the swirly Billy Preston- esque organ parts on songs such as "Rough And Smooth". However, many of the songs seem unfinished rather than experimental, with 46 second track "There Is A Way To End This Run Of Doubt" being a case in point.

The album is bookended by the downbeat noodle "Married To The Sea" parts (a) and (b) both tracks are unfortunately over before they ever had the chance to truly begin. "Don't Worry", the first song proper on the album, is a merry mid-tempo track which shows off Alexis Taylor's voice to a degree, rarely seen in Hot Chip material. Standout track "You're No Good" is a wonderful 11 minute bitter boogie, laden with George Harrison-esque blues riffs and swirling organ parts. It is the best example of capturing a band in the creative process on the album

Sadly, despite the standard of musicianship on the album being first rate, the compositions themselves, are far to hit and miss to achieve any long term listening pleasure.The fact that six of the songs are less than 3 minutes long does not help the band to draw the listener in. Tracks such as "Repair Man" and "Nothing But Words" however, are worthy of note. This album will appeal primarily to organ and keyboard enthusiasts and Hot Chip diehards.

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