There are glorious, uplifting love songs that pluck playfully at your...
Annabel Caulton 2002-12-09
Imagine that Ed Harcourt's debut album is a bottle of wine, found by chance in a cool, undisturbed place. The caveat on the label is'Here be Monsters'. Don't say you haven't been warned.
Uncorked; the first hints of mellow fruitiness dance from the bottle. A dark, velveteen residue lingers at the bottom, cloaking something decidedly more sinister.
In much the same way, this collection of songs -some finely polished versions of earlier tinkerings from the Maplewood EP - can ease you towards divine intoxication.
With a voice that sounds like it's been refined through years of excess and a cacophony of words and instrumentation that play like a musical zoo crawling with creatures from Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are', Harcourt breaks us in gently with the first track, the rhythmically soothing "Something in my Eye".
"God Protect your Soul", is made of meaner stuff, laden with low, off key notes, Mariachi style trumpets and piano keys tumbling with waterfall abandon.
It's not all brooding insolence though, there are glorious, uplifting love songs that pluck playfully at your heartstrings."Shanghai", "Apple of my Eye" and "She fell into my Arms" make your soul swoop and incorporate a heady cocktail of musical instruments including banjos, vibraphones, trombones and harmonicas.
He mixes pure pop and grungy rock with odd, quirky experimentation. The solo trumpet on "Beneath The Heart Of Darkness", played over a swirly, backward loop is apparently inspired by a dodgy boiler. Starting with a cranky rhythm and lulling grace it descends into the sound of a madman's mind, buzzing with bees. The songfinally reaches a psychotic crescendo and falling into a pacified calm.
It's not surprising to hear that Ed drafted in producers Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev) and Gil Norton (Pixies and Throwing Muses among others) to add their edge. Or that his influences include Tom Waits, Chet Baker and more recently Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction fame.
He mingles well with Beth Orton and Neil Finn and sits comfortably on the wine rack with the Eels and Elliot Smith.
So, pull up an armchair, uncork the bottle and get deliriously drunk with Ed Harcourt and his monsters.