John Squire’s Marshall’s House, at a sum total of 36 minutes, speedily presents 11 mainly upbeat indie tracks by the former Stone Roses guitarist.
The overall effect is somewhat one-dimensional, since most are drummed at the same pace and have excessive use of cymbals, almost like a jazz drummer has gone wild in indie-land.
Same-y-ness aside, the music is actually the redeeming feature of this album, with some very talented guitar playing of both the electric and acoustic variety, such as on Summertime, Automat and Yawl Riding A Swell. There is also a varying of the drums on People In The Sun, with an initial bongo-type beat building the song up, before a full-kit finale. Keyboards (even what sounds like a Hammond organ) and harmonica also make an appearance.
Perhaps deliberately, for a man who rough voice is more Shane McGowan than Bob Dylan, the vocals are left relatively low in the mix. This has the added bonus of not being able to pick out the banality of many of the lyrics, which suffer from excessive repetition and a lack of direction. “We’re going down,” repeated frequently on the title track, and “1-5-2-5-3-5-4, 5-6-7-8, at your door,” on the recent single Room In Brooklyn are particular low points. In fact, the song titles all seem to have been inspired by a single summer holiday to the East Coast of America, which adds to the impression that the lyrical muse descended only briefly on Squire.
The most intriguing lyric is, “Swimming through holes in dead American painters,” which is also the name of Squire’s painting on the front cover (yes, another stylised naked lady “oil on canvas”, for those of you who bought the single). But, unfortunately for Squire that title, and indeed the concept for the picture, are drawn from a photograph by another artist.
The voice apart, some of the songs make for pleasant listening, especially the feel-good, guitar-led opener Summertime, and the guitar arpeggios in Yawl Riding A Swell, even if the letter are somewhat reminiscent of REM‘s Everybody Hurts. Marshall’s House and Hotel Room build atmosphere in the verses like Garbage‘s I Think I’m Paranoid and U2‘s Desire respectively, but without ever quite scaling the heights achieved in those songs’ choruses.
All in all, this is a disappointing album, as although the music is really good in places, it would benefit from a change of singer and perhaps a co-writer’s perspective to add a depth that’s simply lacking at the moment.