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Napoleon IIIrd Christiania Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

This is a voice which yearns and needs to be heard – and it warrants it, too.

Luke Slater 2010

It is something of a common trait for artists on London's Brainlove label to be both unconventional and bold to the extreme in their methods and end-product, from the bizarre semi-sociological tracts of Pagan Wanderer Lu to Holmfirth's James Mabbett, aka Napoleon IIIrd, whose new record, Christiania, is one that more than alerts the ears. Within the first 20 seconds of opener The Unknown Unknown, you know that his is a voice which yearns and needs to be heard, and warrants it, too. It is unnerving, and not dissimilar the unusual tones of Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade's Spencer Krug.

Christiania contains several tones, yet as each morphs into another it maintains a twinkle of the previous. The Hardline Optimist embodies this, both lyrically and musically, with its rapid-fire, borderline fiery chanting, yet it is essentially two minutes of unbounded glee. The back-to-back tracks of This Town and That Town do similar, acting as one another's foil. The former is a two-and-a-half minute lamenting drone, the latter infinitely perkier, resulting in a merry-go-round of elation, channelling "a grass is greener" world-view.

An injustice is served if you do not have the volume at its very highest. Few of the songs are truly heavy, but in turning down you lose the subtleties and nuances that move the record from the middle-ground to the heights it strives for. The galloping, phase-shifting outro of Leaving Copenhagen is such a passage where every extra notch moves the smile wider still. The few down-tempo tracks are perhaps the most intense, but although the pace is lessened the effects are not.

The pomp – which is present in almost everything – is Christiania's heart, but the production's thickness and density is as much a selling point. It’s of a muscular form referenced in much of the bombast of 80s synth-pop, massive melodies and all – Duran Duran's The Wild Boys is in there. It may take a bit of wearing in for one to truly feel Christiania's impact, which comes from all sides, but once settled, it's hard not to revel in its constant realised ambition.

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