The ‘lo-fi British Beck‘ returns with a ramshackle hoedown on album number 2, that evolves from his debut with a barnyard of instruments to blend with his acoustic guitar, drum machine loopyness. If anything’s changed here is that Simple’s produced his ‘hey fame’s a bummer, and I got depressed second album blues’. Not that it’s entirely unpleasant, when the bad times sound like they’re having a ball .
Lil King Kong sounds like Marc Bolan meets Primal Scream (in their country-blues phase) as it rolls drunkenly on a sea of looped beats, banjos and squalling guitars. As openers go you this beats its chest full of bombast, but on closer inspection turns out to be with limp wrists, which is a neat trick if you can pull it off.
Like a dumb slacker Dylan, Self-Help Book busks its dimestore logic of ‘if you eat too much pie you’re gonna be fat’ and other Forrest Gump statements-of-the-obvious to banjo accompaniment and a woozy off-kilter sway. This is in no part due to the recordings shifting from taped home demos to the studio and being warped by the translating.
The TwentySomething merges into its tail with barely a whisker between them, with its ’70s rockisms of directionless. It seems in general that life has been far from simple for the kid as despite their bouncy undercarriage of joie de vivre these are tunes shot through with self-doubt, self-help and doubting on a major scale. Not that it’s a miserable musical scab-picking exercise in tedium when there’s bruised optimism lurking at the edges of most of the tunes here.
Tracks are buffed up from bedroom demos to resemble the sound of an orchestra drunkenly falling down the stairs with a cheery-bruise to scuffle around in the dust and discarded album sleeves of the last century. The fractured, patched up demo of Old Domestic Cat is like Bonnie Prince Billy in its simplicity and effectiveness. A Song of Stone with its bleak mantra could be akin to Nick Drake in its acoustic loveliness.
Serotonin is a downbeat number on the downside of fame and “how some chemicals flow to your soul.” It rides woozy string samples like an epic Grandaddy track full of mellotrons and lush cascading melodies.
Oh Heart and You could be a George Harrison tracks with its eastern twinges, double-tracked vocals and winsome odes to lost and new love. The Beatles get another look in on Mommy’n'Daddy with its blues-stomp like Happiness Is A Warm Gun rattling along to give the album a much-needed lift in tempo.
Love’s An Enigma (pt 2) (of course) as the albums finale builds to a crescendo of towering chords over a listing Simple’s requirements in a lover including making him ‘all King Kong’. Is there a challenger for King Monkey here?
Comparisons to fellow American Music Fan Badly Drawn Boy ring true but the difference here with most of the tunes is that beyond their musical depth and charms, lyrically they’re a bit too simple to merit repeated listening.