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Identity Crisis


South: From Here On In

Mo'Wax/Kinetic, 2002

Rating: 2.9



Posted: March 1, 2002

By Laurence Station

Although South has been labeled an electronica band in some quarters, its stateside debut proves the trio's more accurately likened to a brit-pop band struggling to escape from a ill-fitted house music straightjacket.

The person most responsible for the electronic elements liberally distilled throughout the disc is co-producer James Lavelle (U.N.K.L.E.), who seems determined to dampen any references to traditional guitar-driven rock by ratcheting up the artificial trance-house/all-night raver quotient to annoyingly aggressive levels. Listening to the band's debut, From Here On In, one gets the definite sense of a stylistic tug-of-war going on, as if Lavelle were continually pushing South in directions the lads had no desire to go.

Evidence of this strained dichotomy reveals itself with two less than invigorating, Lavelle-dominated instrumentals ("Broken Head I" and "Broken Head II.") bookending South's otherwise handily accomplished guitar pop offerings. Highlights include the energetic "Paint The Silence," and the acoustically pleasing (if drowsily melancholic) "Here On In." The disc's finest moment, "Recovered Now," is also the most shamelessly derivative of the band's 90's Manchester heroes (Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Charlatans, et al.), offering proficiently jangly (if unoriginal) guitar hooks, pounding drums and inoffensively melodic keyboards.

The middle third of From Here On In passes so innocuously as to be hardly noticeable, with a pair of new tracks ("Save Your Sorrow" and "Too Much Too Soon") not found on the album's 2001 UK release possessed of generic lyrics as obvious as they are bland ("Leave if you've said what you wanted to say/Stay if you want and we'll fight this within").

Discounting Lavelle's overproduction, what's lacking From Here On In is any kind of distinctive South sound: Indeed, the band could just as well tour as a Stone Roses cover band, complete with note-perfect Ian Brown vocalizations and catchy, John Squire-crafted guitar hooks. From Here On In shows South to be a young band, still eagerly paying tribute to the groups that have influenced it. The trio should consider its debt to the past paid in full, and hopefully turn its attention toward a more distinctive, original and Lavelle-free future.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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