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South: From Here On In
Posted: March 1,
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
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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