Before the Calm
It is a rare thing nowadays to find an album that contains any real emotional impact and urgency without descending into maudlin self-pity. The artists that are capable of performing this task withdraw into willful obscurity, fail commercially and lose their recording contract, or remain ignored by the masses. Let us pray that none of these fates await the Witness UK. Billed as a cross between the Verve and Radiohead, they resemble neither except in the most superficial manner. The only real common denominator between them is an emotional directness and a cold fragility that few bands may equal. Over the course of this album, the listener is treated to some of the most beautiful lyrics and singing to appear this year with nuanced, restrained music that is rare these days. Music that is capable of soaring crescendos without blusteriness.
At times a dark album, this album squarely addresses themes of self-doubt, and regret honestly, yet without entirely disappearing into despair. At the same time the songs create an intimacy between the performers and the listener that only the most classic of albums are capable of accomplishing. For example, the Velvet Undergrounds’ self titled album or Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. It is difficult to even identify a single track as noteworthy, as the album is of the rare breed where you want to listen to it from start to finish and each track segues beautifully, inexorably into the next. Not since the time I first heard the American Music Club’s Mercury has an album remained on my record player so consistently. In many ways, this album fulfills the goal first identified by Lou Reed for rock musicians: to create an album comparable to the novel: an art form that captures and reveals the depth and range of human life and frailty. This album does so effortlessly, beautifully.
MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608; http://www.umusic.com/