First, a bit of back story: Jeremy Enigk used to be lead singer in Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate, whose 1994 album Diary (released on Sub Pop) is quite rightly considered something of a classic. The success of Sunny Day Real Estate's sound lay in the combination of Enigk's incredible, almost angelic, voice and a rhythm section that gave the songs a harder/darker edge. When you take into account that William Goldsmith (drums) and Nate Mendel (bass) went onto join the first incarnation of Foo Fighters, then you get an idea of the calibre of personnel.
And herein lies the problem of an Enigk solo project. Stripped of the energy and aggression that a 'band' provides, it is left to his voice to carry the songs, the music barely putting up a fight in competition. But is singing alone going to make a good album? Meatloaf has a good voice right? A bit harsh maybe.
Things start off well, Been Here Before showcases the complete range of Enigk's talents, starting slow and introspective before getting BIG, so big, that it takes a church organ to provide the song's break. In fact, what goes on pre/post organ could neatly describe what does and doesn't work on the album. The better songs are the quieter, more acoustic songs, where the music assumes a bit of character, rather than being a bit-part vehicle for 'the voice'. Canons, Damien Dreams and Dare a Smile fall into this category. The latter of which could almost be a Guided By Voices song, that is if GBV's Bob Pollard was to put down the bourbon and beers for a moment.
It's when the songs get epic that things start to go awry, City Tonight being a fine example. Not content with a dodgy synth opening, it begins with the line "Am I Late to the Kingdom of Love", before POWER drumming and guitars kick down the door and take the song home. This is Simple Minds in all their 80s glory, it's a song that conjures up an image of Richard Gere in slow-motion - probably on horseback. But Simple Minds not only had massive songs, they also head massive success, so I suppose dues should be given.
Overall, genuine good points beat potential bad (depending on where you stand on Simple Minds). It's actually quite refreshing to hear an honest album by a singer/songwriter doing what he does best, without compromise, rather than the multitude of bands around at the moment simply aching to be cool.
As for a score. I'll start with a 2 and award an extra mark for being a nice alternative to those other Golden-voiced Juggernauts, Keane and Coldplay, (at least Enigk sings like he means every word). But I'm going to have to dock half a mark for Am I Late to the Kingdom of Love. I hate Richard Gere.
13th Nov 2006 - Tumblr2.5
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