I was contacted by chap in the UK called Darren who is the chief songwriter and drummer of The Offbeat. He asked if I’d please, please, please (actually, he didn’t use that many pleases) listen to his band’s latest album, In Love Field (2010).
Mr. “I’ll Listen To Anything New – Gimme Gimme Gimme!” (i.e., me) said “No problem.” Darren then sent me a copy of In Love Field and I put my listening ears on.
After listening to said album, I sent Darren an email telling him what I thought, and then Darren sent me an email telling me what he thought of what I thought. This went back and forth a few times, and was rather enjoyable.
Instead of trying to come up with a sparkling and witty album review (something I’m not particularly good at), I thought I’d just present you with our email conversations…
Me: Thanks for In Love Field. It appeared in the mail a couple of days ago, looking very pleased that it’d travelled across the ocean, arriving safe and sound.
I must admit that I had completely forgotten that you were going to send me the album, and when it turned up in the mail box I was completely mystified. I opened it, saw the album and wondered, “What on Earth is this? Do I know any band called The Offbeat? And who on Earth sent it to me? It came from England, but it doesn’t say exactly who sent it. What’s going on here?”
I was totally baffled until this morning when I was sorting out some emails. I spotted yours from a couple weeks ago where you mentioned The Offbeat.
Many apologies, Darren, for completely forgetting that you were going to send me The Offbeat CD.
OK. Now that that awkwardness is out of the way, I’ll have a listen to the album. (I still don’t know anything at all about the band or the album, so I’ll be coming to it with incredibly fresh ears.)
Darren: Well I do hope you like it.
Me: I’ve now had a listen, and I’m happy to say that I do.
Darren: It’s our second album, the first one being called, imaginatively enough, “The Offbeat”…
Me (interrupting): I guess when it’s your first album, and you want people to notice you, there aren’t too many options for naming your debut. (Hint: name it after your band.)
Darren: …and would be fascinated to hear what you think of it.
Me: Here goes…
After studiously avoiding finding out anything about the band, its members, and its music, I put the CD in the drive, pressed “Play”, and hoped for the best…
My first reaction was one of surprise. I must admit that, before hearing a note, a tiny part of me was thinking that the music was going to be the kind that’s terribly popular at the moment which is simple garage rock à la The Strokes, The Killers, The Hives, etc etc etc etc etc. To me, that music has a whole lot of attitude but not a lot of melody.
Although I usually listen to something at least three times before forming an opinion about what I’ve heard, here are my first impressions. I’ll try not to provide a running commentary on each and every song (that can get boring real quick), but what’s what you’ll probably end up reading:
Track 1 (“She Can Make The Sun Shine”):
When the track started my first reaction was “Beach Boys!”. And my second reaction was “It’s not horrible!”. I was relieved to hear that it wasn’t more Strokes, Killers, Hives et al.
Track 2 (“Someday Somehow”):
I liked the out-of-tune guitar effect at 0:46. It made me laugh. I must admit that before I heard this track I had Marshall Crenshaw in my mind, only because the name of your song reminded me of Marshall’s “Someday, Someway“. I’m glad that “Someday Somehow” doesn’t sound anything like “Someday, Someway”. (For the record – no pun intended – I adore the music of Marshall Crenshaw. To me, he couldn’t write a bad song if he tried.)
Track 3 (“Something About The Girl”): Nice harmonies.
Track 4 (“Blue Sky”):
Even nicer harmonies. I liked the false ending, followed by that long outtro. I also liked the very end of the song where the instruments just sort of stop playing when they felt like it, instead of all at the same time.
The more I listen to this album, the more I think that I’m going to enjoy listening to it again.
Track 5 (“You And Me”): This sounds a little like John Lennon when John went all domestic in the late 70’s. (“You And Me” reminds me of “Beautiful Boy“.)
Track 6 (“Where Is The Girl”): Now we’re back in Beach Boys territory. Boy, that singer* sure sounds like late-70’s John Lennon. That, to me, is A Good Thing. The chorus has just started. Yum. I’m definitely going to enjoy listening to this album again. The arpeggiated ostinato guitar part in the later choruses reminded me of the magnificent guitar part in “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)“. It sounds like you guys like The Beatles as well as The Beach Boys. By the way, I liked the little mistake at 1:40 (the bass drum hesitates very slightly). I don’t know why musicians try to make their music completely perfect, because I like little mistakes in recordings – it makes musicians sound human, not like machines. And I like this song. Truth be told, I like every other song I’ve heard so far. Next song, please.
(*Note to self: Find out the name of The Offbeat’s singer.)
Track 7 (“When You Got Love”): An acoustic-y, down-home, rustic kind of track. A nice break from the previous songs. I like the guitars, but I especially liked the guitar that sounds to me like a 12-string that’s had some audio processing to make it sound like a hammered dulcimer. (Well, that’s what I’m hearing anyway.)
Track 8 (“Word To The Wise”): I like the loose background vocals (they sound relaxed instead of sloppy). Another false ending. I have a feeling you like false endings.
Track 9 (“A Love To Last”): The singer in this song reminds me of Graham Gouldman. (I’m a huge fan of 10cc, so someone sounding like Graham Gouldman is a big plus for me). This song had me nodding my head in no time.
Track 10 (“Jennifer Sometimes”): A nice, slightly trippy track. Very 60’s. I liked it.
Right. That’s what I first thought of the album.
(Update: I found out, courtesy of the CD booklet, that Nigel Clark does all the singing. Hi, Nigel! I also found out that you wrote all the songs. Thanks, Darren, for writing songs I like.)
Darren: If you would like to know more info then just ask away.
Me: Can do. Thanks.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to the album again.
Darren: I maybe wrong, but I think you like the album?…
Me: Er, well, um, ah…
I’ve listened to the album my regulation minimum three times (so far, I’ve listened to it four times – and I’m about to play it again), so I’m now in a position to make a hideously pretentious announcement:
I officially Like This Album.
(I’ll try not to be that pretentious again.)
Darren: Ha! spot on with the deliberate artistic fluffs!
Me: Thanks. I’m glad they were deliberate (at least I was hoping they were deliberate…).
Incidentally, in “Someday Somehow”, was the bizarro chord somebody played in the right channel at 0:24 deliberate, too? (Just asking.)
(Update: I guess it was deliberate, considering it was played again at 0:32.)
Darren: Here are 5 facts you might not know:
1. All the songs are always recorded and mixed in one day.
Darren: 2. Blue Sky was written and recorded in less than 24 hours.
Me: Wow, Part 2.
(Although it does lead me to ask questions like “Why?”, and “What’s the hurry?”, and “Is studio time very expensive where you are?”.)
Darren: 3. The guitar solo on When You Got Love is a twelve-string with an effect added to it.
Me: Excellent. To me, it ended up sounding like a hammered dulcimer, but I suppose that’s not the specific sound you wanted. You probably weren’t looking for the “Hammered Dulcimer” setting on your Digital Signal Processor.
Darren: 4. The first album was called The Offbeat because I could not afford re packaging and used to send out the latest song under the same cover to record companies each time.
Me: Splendid. That’s what’s known as “thinkin’ with yer noggin”. I like a band that recycles.
Darren: 5. Your comments are very helpful!
Thanks. I’m happy to keep providing them until your band members start moaning “What? We got another email from him?”
Okey dokey. That was pretty much the electronic chinwag Darren and I had over the course of a few emails. By the way, Darren gave permission to reprint our conversations (His exact words were: “Please be my guest!”). Thanks, Darren.
And I’ve listen to the album eight times now. I like it.
For making it all the way to the end of this post, you need to be rewarded.
Darren rashly sent me three copies of the album, which means I have two I can give away (I’m keeping one, ‘cos I like it).