The Sleepy Jackson – Personality: One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird (2006): Review

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Produced by Scott Horscroft and Luke Steele
Label – EMI/Virgin/Astralwerks

Following the release of the band’s debut (“Lovers”) in 2003, The Sleepy Jackson leader Luke Steele decided to ditch his entire personnel with the exception of drummer Malcolm Clark. Bizarre when you consider that the album was reasonably well received by both fans and critics alike. The Australian oddball in him obviously wasn’t satisfied by the input from the rest and on hearing this follow up one can understand his reasoning. Steele is seeking a recording of ethereal grandeur which simply can’t be created through a simple band structure. So he’s employed orchestras, horn sections and percussionists along with producer Scott Horscroft to create an eccentrically huge sound tailing an urge to cross Phil Spector’s wall of sound with Brian Wilson’s sense of harmony. Steele has an undeniable understanding of melody, and many of the songs have the essence of great alternative pop, but sadly this collection has been horrendously watered down by an over production of criminal proportions.

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On the whole the album lurches from the mildly intriguing to generally irritating within the course of two songs. “Devil Was In My Yard” is fairly refreshing, quirky, and bears a resemblance to George Harrison circa. 1970. This along with “God Lead Your Soul”, and God Knows” would have left a fairly decent E.P. The rest of the simple melodies that Steele is attempting to portray are simply drowned out in a wash of violins and horn arrangements that leaves one thinking of awful bubblegum pop acts of the early 70s like The New Seekers. The album becomes a mess of indistinct disparate elements, not helped by Steele’s vocal recording. His voice isn’t the strongest, but the Producer must really take some responsibility for making it sound so thin. One actually can’t grasp a word he’s singing unless the lyrics are in front of you. It’s frustrating because there are some good tunes trying to get out, and the fantasy in Steele’s mind that grand production will make for a memorable record is completely futile.

“Personality” is an empty effort. Emptied by pretensions of grandeur, sucked of all personality for the sake of cod art intention. Get your band back together Luke Steele.

5/10

Track Listing
1.”You Needed More” – 3:09
2.”Devil Was in My Yard” – 3:21
3.”God Lead Your Soul” – 3:29
4.”Work Alone” – 3:03
5.”God Knows” – 2:58
6.”I Understand What You Want but I Just Don’t Agree” – 3:20
7.”Miles Away” – 2:36
8.”Higher Than Hell” – 2:55
9.”Play a Little Bit for Love” – 4:30
10.”Don’t Say” – 3:06
11.”You Won’t Bring People Down in My Town” – 3:18
12.”Dream On” – 2:58
13.”How Was I Supposed to Know” – 4:04

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