The chaps who make up the band Cirrone – brothers Alessandro, Bruno, and Mirko Cirrone (hi, chaps!) – sent me an email asking if I’d review their album, Uplands Park Road. Although I was more than happy to listen and comment (it’s music that’s new to me, so I’m always keen, keen, keen), I’m afraid that this post may have ended up being a case of “be careful what you wish for”.
I’ve listen to the album a few times and have jotted down some of my responses. Unfortunately for anyone reading this, I found a lot of things to comment on.
Before I get to what matters (i.e., the music), I feel compelled to mention the appearance of the young gentlemen on the cover of the album. I’ll be the first to admit that, being a man, I may not be the best judge of male attractiveness, but I reckon Alessandro, Bruno, and Mirko all look like male model material. Have they ever been male models? If not, have they ever considered becoming male models?
Overall I found the album to be enjoyable, although nowhere near as enjoyable as other bloggers have found it. (People all over the Interwebs have raved about the album, putting it at, or near, the top of plenty of “best of” lists for the year.)
As I kept listening to the album, I wasn’t “getting into it”. I’ve listened to it 10 times now, and every time I’ve enjoyed it – but not loved it. For ages I couldn’t figure out why something so rooted in the early 1970’s musically didn’t engender all the responses I usually have when listening to something from the 70’s. (I’m a sucker for early-70’s power pop.)
But then I finally figured out why I didn’t go
gaga nutso bananas over the album:
It’s a pastiche.
I usually don’t mind it at all when an artist or band pays homage to music of an earlier time, and enjoy the recreation of an era, but for some reason when I’m listening to Uplands Park Road I’m fully aware that this was recorded in 2011, not 1973. I know it’s an anachronism. As a result, to me this album feels more ersatz than authentic. Maybe “ersatz” is too harsh a word. I’ll put it another way: I’ll say that the music is more an approximation than the real thing.
Having typed that, I do want to point out that as an album of music sounding like early-70’s power pop it’s expertly written and recorded, and impeccably executed.
I also want to point out two more things: the more I listen to the album the more I enjoy it; and as I keep listening to it I’m noticing how much effort went into the making of it.
1. “Here Is My Song”
I’ve never been a fan of album-opening tracks that are low-key. I much prefer “bang!” songs to start an album. This song, to me, meanders along rather pleasantly. It’s nice, but that’s all I can think of to describe it: nice. I like the mandolin (from 1:27 onward).
2. “Uplands Park Road”
I love the riff that starts this song. Now this is how I like an album to start. For me, the riff was the best part of the song. I liked most of it, but some parts I wasn’t especially enamoured of. (The chords used in the chorus for instance. A bit too ordinary for my liking.) This song reminded me of a host of other power poppers. For example, The middle 8 of this song (starting at 1:16) reminds me very much of Emitt Rhodes – or maybe Big Star. And the bit after the middle 8 (1:47 to 1:50) leading into the cowbell-driven guitar solo reminds me of one of the drum breaks in Cheap Trick‘s version of “California Man“. This to be precise:
Oh, and speaking of Big Star: in “Uplands Park Road”, the bridge/refrain/whatever-it’s-called after the guitar solo (from 2:17) reminded me a lot of Big Star – specifically a chord progression in “Feel”:
Big Star – “Feel” (1972) (excerpt from later in the song)
3. “I Still Remember”
A good old foot stomper. (Glam, baby!)
4. “Let The Wind Blow”
A slightly country-boogie-ish song, courtesy of the beat and the slide guitar. After the eighth listen, it’sNice vocal harmonies. Actually, this album is full of extremely nice vocal harmonies.
5. “All I Know”
A nice mid-tempo pop-rocker. With extremely nice vocal harmonies.
By the way, there’s a riff in this song that reminds me a bit of the main riff in Kiss‘ “Love Her All I Can”:
Kiss – “Love Her All I Can” (1975) (excerpt)
Also by the way – and this doesn’t have much to do with anything – a guitar solo plays some stuff in the song and ends on a note that sets my teeth on edge. It’s not a bad note or anything, it’s just that the song is in the key of B flat major, and for me the note the guitar plays should be D instead of the D flat it stays on when the song ends. I keep wanting that note to bend up a semitone from D flat to D. I really, really want it to do that. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the end of the song. Now try to imagine me sitting here wishing that last solo guitar note would go up just a bit to make it all nice and in the key of B flat major:
I know it’s nothing major (pun definitely not intended), but I wanted to let you know about it because it’s bothering me. (Note to self: Stop being bothered by it, Peter.)
Sorry about sidetracking you with those two things (the riff and the guitar note). I’ll try not to keep noticing little things like that. They’ll just make this post way too long.
Right. Next track.
6. “Brand New Life”
I absolutely adore the chorus of this song. That’s a great chorus. I think this album is worth buying just for the chorus. As for the whole song: I reckon it would be what critics call “a long-lost Badfinger track”. I’d call it a Hudson Brothers track. If I was to offer a criticism (here we go again), I’d say it goes on a bit too long. But apart from that, I like this song. Especially that chorus. What a chorus.
7. “How Does It Feel”
A fun bit o’ brass to start this staccato-beat song. And I like how the fun brass is used sparingly in other parts of the song. I’m glad the lads didn’t go berserk and think to themselves “Hey, we’ve got this great brass sound. Let’s put it everywhere in the song. Brass! Yeah!”
8. “Your Eyes Are Wide Open”
Nice chorus. I like the tambourine* that propels the chorus along. (*I think that’s a tambourine.)
9. “Just Tell Me”
I don’t quite know why, but this song reminds me of The Red Button‘s She’s About To Cross My Mind (not any particular song – all of it). But back to this song: I like the “la-la-las”. Extremely trivial observation: I like the two guitars going “oo-wee-oo” at 1:38. Cute.
10. “You’re Not Alone”
I like the off-beat rhythm in the section where they sing “I know you will find your own way…” (from 0:46). I thought it spiced up the song quite nicely. Howevever, I wasn’t especially keen on the Hendrix-esque guitar playing (e.g., 0:41 to 0:46). I’d be quite happy if I never heard Hendrix-esque guitar playing in any more songs. By the way, this song employs the chord progression that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I like the abrupt ending.
11. “Here We Will Go”
I just noticed I’m spending way too much time on this post. I’ll try to hurry it along by not waffling much more than I have already. Great vocal harmonies. And I love the triplets in the fade-out (3:05 to 3:07). When I say “triplets” I don’t mean the three brothers in the band. Sorry, I’m waffling again. Next song.
12. “In The Sun”
A pleasant little “Julia“-ish acoustic number. However, it does include the lyric “since you’ve gone, I can’t go on”. I don’t know why, but I tend to have an aversion to that particular line, in whatever song it appears. (Maybe it stems from childhood. As psychologists like to say: “It all stems from childhood!”)
13. “Running Time”
This reminds me so much of another song, but I can’t remember what it is. Grrr.
The End Of The Post
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you’ll now know why I’m no good at reviewing albums. I ramble, waffle, and prattle. Unlike proper music reviewers, I can’t just say in a few words what I think is good/bad/meh about an album and sum it all up with a delicious turn of phrase.
I’m relieved that I’ve finally finished this post. And I’d say you’re relieved, too. I’ve spent way too much time on it, and you’ve spent way too much time reading it. Thanks for your patience and perservance.