[…continued from last post]
“I Work Alone” was a winsome, crystalline pop single of a tune that sported music box precision and a motorik drumbox straight out of “Difficult Shapes + Passive Rhythms [Some people Think It’s Fun To Entertain].” But the clarity of the lyric was closer to the standard of “Autumn In The Neighbourhood.” Mr. Daly crafted a portrait here as economical as any of his paintings. First he established the character, and then he delivered the message as plainly as possible. While managing to reference Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” sound design [and not the parts that are usually referenced…] in the song’s middle eight. Gary’s eldest daughter Molly also added life-affriming BVs on this one. The result was simply three minute pop perfection.
The next song managed to stray far afield from the technopop subtext the album was founded on thus far. “Of Make Do And Mend” was almost a full-bore acoustic track. Only the shimmering synths competed for the spotlight with the acoustic guitar, cellos, and the harp. The cellos won in the end, as the almost folk tune [with a tellingly dark lyric] added a sober tone to the album.
“Carousel of Stars” was teased ahead of the album and it was a stunning example of music bait. Daly had not been content with his vocal on the tune, and had taken to emulating John Campbell’s [It’s Immaterial] distinctive voice over delivery on the music bed as a means of casting it in a new light. Then he got the brilliant idea to simply ask Campbell to add his two cents to the song himself. He lived nearby and thus the stunning collaboration [Campbell ended up co-writing with Daly] hit the razor’s edge between the China Crisis and It’s Immaterial vibes.
The first half with Campbell vocalizing was redolent of It’s Immaterial, with Daly singing the chorus, but at the song’s midpoint, the music bed took precedence and it was strongly reflective of early China Crisis. The synths and drum machine sounding very “vintage” as Daly had stuck with hardware he knew and loved. I could not help be reminded of “Red Sails” in terms of the mood, but the supple sax of Eric Animan called out to laters eras of the band; though the incisive solo here roundly topped any sax I might have heard on previous China Crisis records. Can we please get a whole album of Daly/Campbell duets?
“Transition/Peace” was a brief instrumental interlude to mark the transition out of the Campbell zone, then “Low Tide” was another slice of bucolic beauty with only a stray DX7 [used well] to mark any synthetic beachhead in the largely acoustic number. Next came the only track here produced by Daly himself. “In The Cloudy Domain” was a somber tune that alluded to much difficulty and challenge. His piano meshed well with the brass, strings and harp that formed the basis of the music bed. Daly’s vocal was presented in the most vulnerable way possible here; dry and present in a real space where he touchingly lost his voice as he moved up the scale at the end of each chorus. How lovely not to hear any auto-tune that almost anyone else would have ruined this song with.