Movie fans will recognise But You’ve Always Been The Caretaker, the title of the new The Silent League album as one of the most chilling lines of dialogue in Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining. But there are no sinister goings-on in secluded hotel corridors here; instead we’re treated to a beautiful, atmospheric disc with no horrific nightmares to be had.
The Silent League collective is the brainchild of Justin Russo and there are myriad musical influences to be heard in this package. There are hints of early Flaming Lips (not least in the fragile Wayne Coyne-esque vocals), and elsewhere an ELO cover hints at concept album levels of grandeur, but it’s the ghost of Mercury Rev that haunts every note on this album. This is hardly surprising when you consider Russo was their keyboardist during their Deserters Songs/All Is Dream pinnacle. In fact, if this was handed to you as an unlabelled disc you’d swear blind that this album was a lost Rev bootleg.
Egg Shaped kicks off the album with a minute of low, slowly building humming; something which is arguably becoming a clich�d way to kick off albums of ambition. It’s one of the less successful examples of the small interludes and playful digressions that pepper the disc, most of which are fascinating and sublime. The first full track is When Stars Attack!! which up sets the sci-fi aspects of the album, reminding of the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi-era weirdness.
Suddenly we’re plunged into a futuristic cover of ELO’s Yours Truly, 2095. Although it’s a good choice and an album highlight, there’s little to distinguish it from the early ’80s original other than the use of vocoder. Together with the thrashing of Rules Of Disengagement it’s the album at its most energetic.
The rest of the disc settles down to spine tingling atmospheric tracks, all of which are ably produced and inventive, but it’s not long before the words “MERCURY REV” continue to flash relentlessly, thereby robbing the album of a great degree of its potency. The disc feels like a surreal and drifting dream, but while it has the capacity to make your hair stand on end at times, it certainly needs more of its own identity if Russo wants to be moving on from his past glories.
There are plenty of good things to be found in the album, so much so that it can be argued that it is deserving of a higher rating. But you have to start asking questions when it sounds so much like what Russo was doing a decade ago. But You’ve Always Been The Caretaker is an album of majestic and sweeping beauty, but it is ultimately little more than a sequel to All Is Dream. Decent stuff then, if not exactly in a league of its own.