Bocoo - Red Dress
The duo have assembled around them a small group of committed musicians to complete the sound and set about creating a distinctive style of music. The most prominent and instantly noticeable feature are the female backing vocals, a full and soulful voice with an edge to it reminiscent of some of the early female punk vocalists like Pauline Murray or Poly Styrene and yet capable of a smoother sound. For instance, compare the gutsy style in "Concentrate" with the smoother sounds of "Dream Voodoo" and you could almost think it is two voices. Actually, maybe it is.
That apart, what first strikes you about the album, something apparent from the eponymous opening, is that this is not what you would expect if you were expecting a London sound. There is little London about the music, whose nearest cognate as I can discern would be a band like the Hold Steady. There are some good melodies in her and a couple of riffs which hang around long enough to be endearing, such as that on "Let Me Go". At times almost metal in terms of delivery, and at others much more thoughtful, such as "Anne-Marie", "Red Dress" is a difficult album to identify with. A sort of garage rock but far too professional to be the sort of sleazy down and dirty rock you would expect from say, the Flamin' Groovies or even Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, you will require repeated listens before you can even attempt to settle down into a groove with it. And perhaps that is a good thing. Who wants music perpetually keeping you in your comfort zone anyway?
So, what is it about this album which leaves me feeling unconfortable? The answer to that probably lies in the male vocals. I would hesitate to say the vocalist cannot sing, more that he does not. My initial thought is Chris Rea, but then again, I am reminded of comparisons with the Hold Steady. But whereas Craig Finn has seemingly mastered the art of delivering a lyric is an almost spoken drawl, BºCºº have not. The voice is too monotone in its delivery and when the rhythm of the music and the natural stress patterns of the words are at odds, the strain really shows through. At times, particularly on "Russia", there is strain of another sort - too low in the range to be sustainable.
Red Dress is an album of conflicting outcomes. Musically and in terms of the quality of the production, it is a cut above. The trouble is that this is not maintained right across the board and in the end the album feels almost as if it is a work in progress, not so much in terms of the finished product, but rather that the band have embarked on a journey. BºCºº are plainly moving towards something. It is just that I am not sure where that place is they want to take me.
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