Album review

The Autumn Defense : Circles
Cooking Vinyl

The Autumn Defense : CirclesA lesson in marketing, part one: Despite the well-worn phrase, books - and indeed records - often get judged by their covers. Marketing types, being the clever beggars that they are, have cottoned onto this fact and tend to use it in order to reach their 'target audience'. People who like cats, for example, look for pictures of cats; people who like socks look for . . . well, you get the idea.
    The cover picture on the new album from The Autumn Defense is of a sunset. As it turns out, this is in fact a stroke of marketing genius, since this is indeed music for people who like sunsets. More specifically, music for people who like what sunsets signify - the fact that, for the next hour or so, very little else is going to happen until everyone goes to sleep. Voila! Circles by The Autumn Defense . . .

Fronted by John Stirratt of Wilco fame, The Autumn Defense have crafted a sound that is melodic, mellow, laidback . . . I'm trying, honest I am, but I have to use the word - this album is boring. Yes, there are plenty of rich warm melodies, and yes, the musicianship is faultless, but you just can't help wishing, song after song, that the album would step up several gears.
    After a minute of opening track Silence, you can't help hoping the title is ironic and, being the 'big opener' is going to burst into flames any second - it doesn't. After a minute of Written In The Snow's floaty piano, you can't help hoping that a Ben Folds Five style explosion is about to happen - it doesn't. Even the paciest track on the album, The World (Will Soon Turn Our Way), leaves Norah Jones looking like GG Allin.

Whilst there are a few similarities, there is none of Wilco's edge to be found on Circles, merely the most subdued elements of early Beach Boys, with just a splash of Eric Matthews that almost manages to redeem the whole project. Alas, Circles is far too indistinctive and safe to be of any real interest, and by the end of the album the sun has well and truly set . . .

:: Philip Goodfellow

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