Brookville - Life In The Shade

Tim Miller 18/09/2006

Rating: 2/5

The smooth velvety vocals of Andy Chase, of former US success Ivy, fronts this new musical project, whose songs make use of the skills of between three and eight people at different points of the album. 'Blue Morning' sets the tone with pleasant acoustic guitars, electronics-aided drums, and string sounds. The downbeat melodic layers of the initial quarter of this LP are subject to alteration later on, but never escaped.

'Slow Emotion Replay', despite being one of the few songs that drives itself forward, is guilty of slipping into 30-something lounge music, inoffensive upbeat pop and some rather hackneyed lyrics, 'Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world/But I don't even know what's going on in the self.' 'Golden', by contrast, features a (faux) trumpet line that wouldn't sound out of place surrounded by the crashing production of The Go! Team. It does, thus, sound slightly out of place artificially layered on top of this pop. And this seems to be Brookville's downfall. Always in search of that extra initiative to add to their songs, but never committing themselves to support the decision

Having recently toured with Goldfrapp, for example, that smooth electronica sound is borrowed by Brookville on more chilled out moments, such as the swaying 'Crawling In Circles', with drops of spaced-out keyboard, and 'Nothing's Meant To Last' with misty strings and a husky-voiced female French guest vocalist, which nevertheless fails to inspire this reviewer to go and find out what the lyrics mean.

The gentle piano chords, synthetic strings and smothered brass of 'Up on the Wire' echo the plaintive sounds of Aqualung, a comparison that might be strengthened by the way in which both bands have standout songs that do not add up, with the rest of an album, to the complete article. Namely, the breathy, monochrome sounds of 'Shadows' and the Feeder B-side standard 'Hey You Hang On' add only length to the album, let down further by some more MOR lyrics, "All these things that you wanted to be/Don't give up on when you know they're just inside of you."

Produced to a T, 'Life in The Shade' doesn't have a note a nanosecond too long, a faltered vocal or one out of place squeak of feedback. Either this means that Brookville are incredibly accomplished and professional studio musicians, or, more realistically, that the polished production hides the fact that the songs aren't all that much cop. Gorgeous layers of (fake) strings and guitars are fine, but 13 tracks of down-tempo pop with no real spark, with warm vocals covering up the at times downright corny lyrics, means that the laid-back, note-perfect production layer of this debut prevents Brookville from ever breaking through the haze they innocuously smother themselves in.