Sunday, July 4, 2010

CD Review: /PASSENGER. - WICKED MAN’S REST (Chalkmark/Inertia)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Firstly, what sort of name is ‘slash passenger dot’? Extraneous grammatical flourishes typically betray a need for attention, a need that distracts from the music itself, and oh boy does this slickly produced soul-vacuum need some distractions.
Despite an influence list insulting Van Morrison, Neil Young and The Smiths, slash-passenger-dot (aka Mike Rosenberg) actually sounds far more like this year’s James Blunt or David Gray and will likely be maddeningly popular, at least in the UK where this band are based and Wicked Man’s Rest (besides the out-of-place Allan Ginsberg sample abused in the titular opening track) is set. If you’re a London commuter who wants to a limp-wristed tussle with repressed guilt and self-pity without going to the trouble of leaving the car, this is for you.

The dearth of ideas begins with first single Do What You Like, a song that blatantly rips-off Sigur Rós’ Gobbledigook to tell a depressingly pointless tale of self-debasement for an openly cheating girlfriend: ‘You treat me like dirt but your hands stay clean…so go on, do what you like to me’. Women, despite being the subject of most songs, are objectified in a manner that makes The Troggs seem like Germaine Greer, never more so than the tale of a stalker’s obsession Night Vision Binoculars. Yes, it may be him writing in character (as he claims to be doing in all songs), but more time is spent in shady pursuit ‘with my thermal flask of tea’ (?) than engaging the gentle attack on consumerism his press release states is apparently at the heart of this record.

“The worst crime you can do in pop music is taking yourself too seriously,” said Rosenberg, with typical grammatical error, when promoting this album. Well lock him up officer. Exhibit A: packaging with literary pretensions, B: sub-Corbijn black and white band photos, C: ceaseless dreary mewing about ex-girlfriends and D: humour-free production made for poor-quality car speakers. Rosenberg’s statement also undermines any ‘connection’ a listener may make with a character’s story. Though choosing to team with TV soundtrack composer Andrew Phillips, it seems Phillips has little to work with besides flatly strummed major chords. Honestly, there is nothing to recommend this wholly unremarkable record; the cover is actually beige.

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