Album Reviews

Simon Breed – The Smitten King Laments

(Reaction) UK release date: 11 February 2008

There’s little better way to sum up Simon Breedthan by quoting the opening lines of The Smitten KingLaments’ title track: “Morbid and morose/ And made inBritain ….Like a careworn friend.” His music bearsthe weight of faint disappointment, the sigh ofacceptance, the deep crooning of Morrisseywithout the wit and mocking self-awareness. But allthe same, it works.

Producing low, fractured, dark and acousticcampfire songs for midnight at the crossroads tonowhere, Breed might hail from London via Liverpool,but his heart belongs to the kind of indigo blueschampioned by a line running through John LeeHooker to Scott Walker and Smog.

I Spy The Spider is a typical example. Despitehaving a beat so ponderous you could slash your wriststo it, it immediately imbeds itself in your mind andno matter how much Hi-NRG europap you use to try todislodge it, it’ll still be there at the end of theday, dragging you down as you try to sleep.

For much of The Smitten King Laments the music isprovided by Breed solo, alone with his sadness and aguitar. When the drums or piano do kick in, thesparseness found elsewhere simply enhances theireffect. On Devastating Sky, for example, they fill thegaping of space with images of storm clouds, gatheringready to burst. will tell you that people who like SimonBreed also like Belle and Sebastian, but offerno other alternatives. At first they seem like oddbedfellows but while there’s not a lot in common withthe fey pop of B&S in their entirety, there are clearparallels with the places in which the indietroubadours choose to play away from home: Breed couldeasily have stood in for Mark Lanegan with IsobellCampbell and the similarities almost help toexplain why such combinations work.

If this makes the sadness and doom seem unrelenting… well, it is, but not in a bad way. The SmittenKing does lament, but he does it beautifully, wrappedin low chords and sinking strings, drowning hissorrows while you look on from the shadows.

This is music for a late winter’s night, warmbrandy and a ranging fire, a slow dance you can’tshare. And in that, there’s more romance than you’llget in 50 of the Greatest Love Songs clogging up theAsda shelves this Valentine’s week.

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Simon Breed – The Smitten King Laments