By David Rolland
By David Von Bader
By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
-- John Floyd
People Move On
They weren't exactly Page and Plant, or even Morrissey and Marr, but Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson certainly made their mark. The androgynous, dark-haired lads once made up the core of the London Suede, an amped-up glam-rock band that caused a tremendous furor in England, so much so that in 1992 it wound up on the cover of that nation's Melody Maker without having released any songs. The group made its recording debut the following year with Suede, and it was hard to say who was more responsible for the album's over-the-top, supersexual rock sound: Anderson, with his hysterical falsetto, or Butler, with his ejaculatory guitar solos. In 1994, after months of squabbling with Anderson, Butler split, taking his signature sound with him. Fans and critics alike wondered if the London Suede would ever find another guitarist of Butler's magnitude.
The band did indeed, in the form of teenage wunderkind Richard Oakes, and went on to make some of the best music of its career. In 1995 Butler and David McAlmont, former singer for the Thieves, released an album together, scoring a U.K. Top 10 hit with a funky track called "Yes." But that was little more than a warmup; Butler's true solo career begins with People Move On.
The guitarist has left behind the melodrama and metal-edged aggression of the London Suede, opting instead for loose, meandering songs with little melody and lots of extended jams. The album's first track, "Woman I Know," is a plodding, down-tempo ballad that lasts almost eight minutes, the kind of thing Eric Clapton often indulges in these days. "Autograph," the disc's episodic, guitar-rock centerpiece, lasts almost nine. Apparently, Butler was in the wrong band all these years: He should have been playing with the Verve.
Okay, most of the songs here last about four minutes, but they seem twice as long. "You Just Know" begins with a full minute of delicate acoustic guitar, eventually turns into a soft-rock ballad, and offers only a vaguely pleasant harmonica riff as a hook. "Not Alone" combines a grandiose symphony with an old-fashioned rock-stomp rhythm, but instead of catching fire it just smokes for a few minutes before fizzling out. Butler's voice is presentable (what he lacks in range he makes up for in earnestness), but his amateurish lyrics sink him. There's only so much passion he can muster on lines such as "I've been roaming the streets with my head in the clouds/And I won't need to show you my heart/'Cause all I need in my hands is an electric guitar."
Butler's hands sound strangely idle on People Move On. His songs are exceptionally atmospheric, never really going anywhere; as a result, his guitar sounds equally directionless. He employs soulful back-up singers and Beatle-esque string sections to round out his postpsychedelic sound (in fact, his inventive production is perhaps his best achievement here), but nothing can hide this album's lack of solid material. If Butler doesn't wind up temping with other bands a la Johnny Marr or getting rusty like Jimmy Page, he may yet produce something worthwhile.
-- Rafer Guzman
Dana and Karen Kletter
Twin sisters Dana and Karen Kletter have made a debut album of soft, solemn, elegant songs built around a single piano and the pair's stunning harmonies. Their music isn't influenced by any particular late-Nineties trend and doesn't fit easily into any category. The sisters split piano-playing duties, and at different times guitar, mandolin, and some light percussion bolster the tunes. Susan Voelz of Poi Dog Pondering plays evocative violin throughout, contributing an especially nice solo to "Meteor Mom," the poppiest track here, and ultimately the least successful for being so. A few songs, such as "Your Mother Wants to Know" (originally performed by indie rockers Scrawl) and "Sister Song," end up being too spacy, floating toward the ether of new-age mellowness. But when the Kletters let traditional American and Eastern European folk idioms seep into the songs, they take on density, and the results are impressive.
The sisters' music is reminiscent of two very different female performers. Certain cuts, such as "Directions" and "Father Song," sound a bit like Kate Bush in her slow, didactic, nontheatrical mode. More often, the Kletters hark back to Sandy Denny, who sang with the Strawbs and Fairport Convention in the Sixties before going solo. Whereas Denny took her cues from British folk traditions, the Kletters are influenced by Jewish folk music, and their gorgeous version of "Raisins and Almonds," a Yiddish lullaby, anchors Dear Enemy.
The album was produced by Joe Boyd, who has worked with Richard Thompson, 10,000 Maniacs, and many others in the traditional and singer-songwriter genres. The Kletters tell tales of complicated attachments and affection that shades into resentment, creating mournful, almost redemptive narratives. The lyrics hint at disappointments and passing joys. On "Father Song," for example, they sing, "Father I leave you the memory of your heyday/Your black and white world has slipped away."
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