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Music Reviews

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Castle Talk
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Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Dappled Cities

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

June 19, 2007
Oh David Bowie, twenty years on and it seems that you're still ubiquitous and somehow invisible all at once. Dappled Cities' international debut (they had one prior LP released only in Australia) seems like it wants to be twenty years old, but it is not. Granddance's well trodden songs are interesting soundscapes that are not experimental but not hooky at all either, and that, more than anything, is what the album lacks.

The boys from down under certainly seem to have done their 80s homework. "Vision Bell" bisects the album with a driving 80s rhythm guitar line that binds the song like divorcees on match.com. Tim Derricourt's falsetto vocals play nicely off his normal baritone.

Another standout and another Derricourt tune, "Holy Chord," leads off the album and also utilizes some strong falsetto vocals. The only problem is that the hook in this song is one that has overstayed its welcome before the song is even over, the repetition getting to be like fingernails on a chalkboard by the three minute mark. It's as though the song thinks it has set itself up enough for the grand finale the first time we hear the chorus.

Dave Rennick, originally Dappled Cities' primary songwriter, splits vocal and songwriting duties this time around with Derricourt, and in contrast his songs seem quite pedestrian, often dragging slowly to some rotating Morrisey-esque non-climax. The band's single, "Fire Fire Fire," is an example of a tune certainly not experimental (in so much as it makes no effort to rewrite pop rules) nor poppy (it is certainly not barbed with hooks), and its slow tempo fails to connect to anything deeper.

Derricourt's title track combines some nice vocal flourishes and presents a much better version of the Smiths oeuvre. The crooning of "Granddance" sounds strong here and, if I liked the Smiths, I'd probably be going ga-ga over it. But I don't, so this is just like a nice little aside. The track takes a well-trodden route and is a nice enough composition, but it is not a great one; in essence that is how the entire album feels.

It's hard to admit that you can't breathe new life into a song just by singing it. We're not all Otis Redding or Mick Jagger (with Keith in the back to call the shots). Derricourt's fresh vocals perk things up for Dappled Cities, and his contributions liven up the album as a whole. Maybe it's time to let him take the reins for an entire album… or two.Granddance has a few interesting moments but none that really try something new. Pop-experimentalism, as Warhol proved, is a fine art, and if Dappled Cities are to make a go of it their songs either need more hooks or more experimental flourishes, but preferably both.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
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