Monday, July 20, 2009

We Face Extinction -- the review

As promised, though it took longer than I thought it should, here is my review for my friend Stephen Harrison's new music CD, "We Face Extinction". Here is the cover again:

Stephen & I have known each other for over 30 years. We both studied Drawing & Painting (as they called it then & maybe still do) at Edinburgh College of Art in the late 1970s. Stephen still lives in Edinburgh & has been writing & recording music since I've known him, first with the "punk" (for want of a better word, "indie" would probably be better) band Metropak, as a solo artist, in the band Heyday (I played keyboards, David Weddell & Ronnie Torrance ex of Josef K were the rhythm section), then as a solo artist again.

Here is the track listing for the new CD:

1. We Face Extinction
2. She Certainly Was
3. Garbo Smiles
4. Not Shadows on the Wall
5. Leaving Town Tomorrow
6. The Great Artist
7. Together

Having only 7 songs, does that make this CD a "mini-album"? I don't think anybody cares that much these days, as I suspect many will download individual tunes, or the album as a series of downloads. I'd rather listen to 7 very good songs than 17 pieces including half-finished or badly conceived numbers, so this doesn't disappoint in that the 7 songs are all good & feel like finished pieces.

Stephen's usual lyrical themes of love, love lost, alienation & angst are all represented here, which is good, as he does them well, often taking a cliched idea & giving it a new spin. However, he adds to the thematic list by expanding his repertoire to include an anger song (The Great Artist), a celebrity song (Garbo Smiles, though it's not so much about her), an ecology song, sort of (We Face Extinction), and so on.

The arrangements are also fuller than sometimes before, with mostly keyboard (as far as I can tell) augmenting the voice/guitar/drum machine mix (I don't think there's a bass in there, but I could be wrong). Stephen's voice is as good & rich as it has ever been. The keyboard parts are all well done, simple, & don't clog up the mix. My only real complaint is that the drum machine tends to sound just like that, mechanical, in places. As far as I know, Stephen is playing all the instruments himself, so I guess the drum machine is necessary, and he does use it quite well, sparingly, and doesn't use it incessantly through each song. Ideally, Stephen should be playing with a couple of other human musicians who could bounce ideas off of him & each other, but I guess, realistically, this is not going to happen for the usual budget reasons & so on.

However, the album, taken as a whole often achieves a sense of timelessness, and I would have been quite content to let it continue forever, except for the impracticalities that would imply. There is a hypnotic, drifting, urgent-but-not-urgent quality to the proceedings...this is a CD you could lose yourself in.

A very good piece of work. Buy this CD & make Stephen famous.

Here's a link to his MySpace page:

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