An Immaculate Slice of Pop Genius, "Still Life" Hold all the Promise of the Deub and More.
One of British pop's new breed of moody and introverted post-Thom Yorke baby boomers, Still Life
finds Southampton's classically trained Matt Hales--Aqualung's songwriter and frontman--succeeding in selling both himself and his omnipotent piano as a more erudite and self-absorbed version of Coldplay
. Beginning with the mitigated optimism of "Brighter than Sunshine"--a gloriously simplistic pop song spruced with cloudy strings and therefore redolent of a more sullen ELO--and climaxing with the muttered, moribund lulling of "Good Goodnight," Still Life
frequently attains levels of mumbled intensity via songs as alluring and bitterly withered as "Easier to Lie" and "Extraordinary Thing." The latter not only utilizes a harpsichord and paraphrases one of Churchill's famous wartime speeches but goes on to satirize Radiohead
's oeuvre with the classic--and practically comedic--opening line "Cheer up, it may never happen." It was always going to take something special to trump Aqualung's eponymous debut
but Still Life
really does do the job in atypically melancholic fashion. --Kevin Maidment