CD Review of No Need to Be Down-Hearted by The Electric Soft Parade

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No Need to Be Down-Hearted
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Released: 2007
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No need to be down-hearted? God love the cockeyed optimism of the White brothers! Then again, this is probably the first time in the Electric Soft Parade’s career that they have a good reason to be optimistic about their chances for success in the States – for the first time, they’re actually having one of their albums released here – so perhaps their confidence isn’t misplaced. Let’s hope not, anyway; No Need to Be Down-Hearted, their third full-length release, is a fine album – and if it doesn’t necessarily reach the heights of their Mercury-Prize-nominated debut, Holes in the Wall, that’s okay, because they’re not really going in the same direction now.

The British music press has been known to try and make Oasis comparisons when speaking of ESP, but it’s mostly because the band is led by two brothers: Tom and Alex White. These guys might occasionally drift into Britpop territory, but it’s a rarity, mostly because they enjoy their keyboards too much. The synth line running through the last minute of “Life in the Backseat” will have you bouncing in your seat, and the way they blend the keys with guitar fuzz during the intro of “If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know” is straight out of ‘80s album rock.

No Need to Be Down-Hearted flirts with a lot of different sounds, occasionally within the same song. When it begins, “Shore Song” is driven predominantly by acoustic guitar, with strings in the background to aid in creating a melancholy mood; the second half of the track, however, could just about pass for an Enya song, it’s so new-agey. It’s followed by “Misunderstanding,” which has a positively anthemic guitar solo, an instrumental break that’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” and then lunges back into full rock-stomp mode for its conclusion. “Cold World,” the only carryover from last year’s Human Body EP, is one of a few clear choices for single status; it’s a jaunty piano-powered pop song, featuring echoes of Ben Folds during its mid-track instrumental break. Other picks to click include “Have You Ever Felt Like It’s Too Late” and “Appropriate Ending” (which does not, alas, close the disc), both of which include moments not very far removed from Teenage Fanclub territory.

As of this writing, the Electric Soft Parade are scheduled to play Austin’s South by Southwest festival. Here’s hoping they can pick up a few more high-profile fans; the more people who know about them, the better the chance that No Need to Be Down-Hearted won’t be their first and last US release.

~Will Harris