samedi, novembre 19, 2005

Rachel Goswell

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion of Rachel's ep, which a pal of mine in the UK sent me. I would love to hear the opinions of anyone else who has listened to the ep and/or her full-length solo album. In my review of this ep I tend to extrapolate my view to her album, although I have not heard it. I am hoping that the material on her album surpasses what was included on the ep. Ok, on to my review -

Review of Sleep Shelter ep by Rachel Goswell

Or as I prefer to call it, Sleep-Due-To-Boredom Shelter. I know, not as catchy, but definitely more accurate. I didn't want to have to write a negative review, and maybe this 5-song ep is not indicative of the song quality on Rachel's solo album (I haven't heard it yet), but I was very disappointed by the lazy lyrics, poor musical execution, half-finished songs, and worst of all, uninspired vocals on this ep.

As part of Slowdive, Rachel's vocals were gorgeously melancholy and buoyant on the ascending waves and crests of the signature Slowdive wall-of-guitar sound. In Mojave 3, all of Slowdive's sonic splendor was stripped away to reveal lyrics once buried in feedback and a more simple alt-country sound – with Rachel singing and harmonizing beautifully on too few tracks.

Whether Mojave 3 was your cup of tea after the sonic heights and density of Slowdive depended on your willingness to follow the band members into new terrain (I do want to mention that Mojave 3 is not the only branch growing out of Slowdive; a couple other band members formed another band called Monster Movie that sound nothing like their moniker and are quite good, from the songs I've heard).

Then Rachel struck out on her own, and it was with great excitement that fans of Slowdive, Mojave 3, and Rachel Goswell awaited the release of her solo album. The major looming question was – what would the album sound like, Slowdive or Mojave 3?

Based on the ep, it sounds like a more lackluster Mojave 3 without the musical chops, insightful lyrics, and emotional depth. Two out of the 5 songs on the ep are also on the album, Plucked and Sleeping `n' Tooting. Plucked is an intimate, slow-paced song with a wandering melody line and simplistic lyrics and sound, redeemed by Rachel's pretty vocals and elegiac tone (strings come in near the close; cellos, I think). It's also way too short and left me wanting more, always a good sign, and a nice start to the ep.

Next up is Sleeping `n' Tooting, a slicker, country-type song that reminds me of old Fleetwood Mac out-takes where Christine McVie had lead vocals – 70's-sounding in the instrumental backing and some slight harmonizing vocals (nothing against the Mac, as they have produced some great songs). There's something wrong with the mix because Rachel's voice sounds thin and nasal and limited in its range. The sound overpowers her and while she always had a laid-back, sad inflection to her voice, here it contrasts too much with the upbeat nature of the song.

The rest of the songs are not on her album, and in the case of one of the songs, that's quite a shame. Before we get to that one, however, we must tackle Flying with Gene. Once again the sound mix is bad, with the instruments coming off too loudly. Rachel doesn't have enough gravity to her voice and it sounds like she's hurriedly singing through the chorus, not even sounding totally on-key. The overemphasis on shallow lyrics, pushed home by repetition, and strident instruments weigh the song down, instead of carrying it away.

The next song, Sticking with Grace, is a welcome reprieve and return to form (and, unfortunately, is not on the album). Rachel sings in a higher register and sounds more self-assured. It's a sweet, more emotive song along the lines of Mojave 3, with upbeat guitars, a more pleasant and memorable melody, and more lyrically complex. The song is light on its feet and almost, but not quite achieves grace. Come Rescue Me ends the ep on a slow, regretful note, with the emphasis on plaintive vocals, lyrics, and guitar. Rachel's voice returns to being pallid and not emotive enough. The lyrics "come rescue me" are repeated too many times for comfort – the listener ends up hoping someone (or some other album) will come rescue them from the half-formed songs on the ep.

Sleep Shelter needs a wake up call to give it more zest and life. It also needs to be mixed properly. Most of the songs sound like demos and, without the sonic beauty and veil of mystery of Slowdive's songs or the solid structure and catchy melodies of Mojave 3's songs, the Sleep Shelter ep's faults are laid bare. This could have been an autumnal solo masterpiece in the vein of Out of Season by Beth Gibbons (of Portishead, with Rustin' Man). Instead the sound is one-note and no boundaries are stretched – lyrically, musically, and most sadly of all, vocally.

Rachel has so much potential and maybe her full album, Waves are Universal, is better than the material chosen for this ep. Here's hoping!

Copyright by Jen