Album Reviews

Charles Campbell-Jones – Wasting The Duke

(Bronzerat) UK release date: 2 October 2006

Noodly, by the book Prog-folk that reinforces the idea that the record industry should call time on Devendra Banhart beard-alikes before we’re all sucked into a 1970s vacuum.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Charles Campbell-Jones’ record is rubbish. It’s not. In fact, it’s rather pleasant in a psychedelic, blissed out, cosmic Prog way. It’s got nice piano bits and nice string arrangements and he looks like a nice chap on the record sleeve: beard not too out of control, hair sort of acceptable to the non-hippies of the world. But is it really necessary?

Do we really need another Captain Beefheart wannabe 30 years after sitting around in a muddy field was the most original way anyone could think of to stick it to the Man? No, of course we don’t and so as blissed-out, organic carrot-friendly, bong-recalling and tambourine-tapping as this is, the current music scene is too full of stuff that’s too much like it for there to be any point whatsoever in putting out another album that’s just the same.

This is, of course, a criticism that could just as easily be levelled at several hundred bands consisting of two guitars, a bass and a drummer, as well as no end of r’n’b booty-shaking divas and a good few dozen add-a-keyboard-and-pretend-you’re-Joy-Division combos of the moment, but at least some of them make a small attempt to pretend the world has moved on in the last 30 years.

Even in the press release can’t think further than dragging up the usual suspects to fish amongst for comparisons: Pink Floyd, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Bert Jansch, Nut Gone Flake-Era Small Faces … blah, blah blah. What else might you want to know? He’s Australian (but not as interesting as Wolfmother), Winter Palace nicks its lyrics (sorry – “quotes directly”) from the Malcolm Lowry short story Through The Panama), he’s helped out on vocal duties and guitar by Gemma Ray, formerly of the Gemma Ray Ritual.

Before we disrupt the cosmic balance by drowning this review in too much bad karma, Cambell-Jones does deserve some credit for making a deliberate effort to keep the tunes under four minutes long. This is, apparently, as he considers not doing so to be one of Prog rock’s main shortcomings but unfortunately his solution isn’t really in the spirit of his intentions, consisting as it does (on December, but this isn’t the only culprit) of simply dispensing with lyrics, hooks and a chorus and instead presenting a stand-alone three-and-a-half-minute guitar solo. Which sort of misses the point.

There will be a lot worse records released this week (cf Razorlight, America) but probably few less necessary. It’s not unlistenable. The woman who runs the craft-from-found-objects evening class down at the local community centre might love it. But you, and the world in general, just doesn’t need it. Sorry, Chuck.

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Charles Campbell-Jones – Wasting The Duke