Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars
This is the third studio album released by South in the UK but I have to confess that I had not heard of them until the CD arrived on my desk. This is all the more surprising as I discovered that they used to be signed to James Lavelle’s Mo’Wax label (which also hosted some of my favourite all time artists). The fact their songs have been on the OC and Six Feet Under seems to be a selling point, never having watched the programs I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing to be pushing.
‘The Chameleons of pop are back’ is how the first statement on their press release reads, and after listening to the album I thought that this was a bit of a negative summary. After listening a few times I understand it though, it is pop in its original sense – popular. It’s not always rock or dance or folk or indie, but it does cross those genres and will be accessible to fans of any of them. This is why I’m deliberately not going to mention other bands, it’s too easy to get into the trap of labelling them as similar because there’s at least two different bands songs that you think of on each track when you first listen.
If you want to get an idea of how the album sounds and what I am trying to describe listen to track 10, ‘Meant to Mean’, it starts off all sunny and happy with soft vocals, wandering xylophone and warm rolling bass. Just before the two minute mark that fades out and is replaced by a moody rock section with the thumping drum dragging the track along before the warm sound from the beginning builds again. Within a minute it’s changed again to be replaced with an harder distorted electronic version, it is all very coherent though and the whole way through so there is no mistaking that it is the same track.
As for the rest of the album, ‘Shallow’ eases you in gently with some great key changes and then introduces some great hook lyrics which make the track very engaging and makes you eager to hear the rest of the album.
‘Habit of a Lifetime’ is the low point of the album for me it’s the simplest track and is almost an acoustic sounding song, it’s not a bad piece at all just not as good as the rest.
They return to form with ‘You Are One’, which has much more going on – including some great disco-rock style drums and breaks. This continues with ‘Pieces Of A Dream’, which sounds like the title suggests; loads of tempo and style changes happening right from the beginning of the track. ‘Know Yourself’ is another simple song but this time has the added benefit of a great guest female vocal ( rumoured to be Pearl Lowe).
The first single is going to be ‘Up close and Personal’ and it’s a great choice as it’s easy to get into and probably the most chart-friendly track on the album, I just hope that it gets the airplay that it deserves as it’s a grower with a great xylophone hook and piano section contrasting with great effect to the guitars and heavier drums of the chorus.
Overall I’m completely blown away but also a little disappointed that the promotional disc we have been sent seems to be based on the US release and does not contain the 2 bonus tracks scheduled for the UK. One of the bonus tracks is going to be a cover of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and I am sure that South will do it justice – they really are that good.
Guest article from James T.
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