CD Review of Four Winds by The Lightning Seeds
The Lightning Seeds: Four Winds
Recommended if you like
The Beach Boys, The Lilac Time,
The Beatles
Label
101 Distribution
The Lightning Seeds:
Four Winds

Reviewed by David Medsker

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I
t is not coincidence that pop songwriting went to shit in the ten years since the last Lightning Seeds album. Lead Seed Ian Broudie has a way with melody and arrangements that borders on the criminal, so when he decided to put the band on hiatus in order to focus on producing acts like the Zutons and the Coral, it was as if the four decades of classic pop songwriting that Broudie proudly represented were erased from memory. Sunny pop was no longer fashionable; in its place, we suffered wave after wave of safe, inoffensive, factory-assembled prefab music. Dark days, indeed.

We’re still not out of those woods, of course, but seeing Broudie resurrect the Seeds and release Four Winds, the band’s first since 1999’s dance-o-riffic Tilt, is a welcome sight indeed. Having said that, the color of the sky in the Lightning Seeds universe is significantly grayer than it once was. Broudie’s brother committed suicide three years ago, and Broudie uses Four Winds to vent his grief. It still contains the same Beach Boys-style structures and luscious harmonies that the Lightning Seeds are known for; it’s all just a little…darker.

The title track, for better or worse, sets the tone for the rest of the album, as Broudie sings to his late brother about listening to his Dylan records outside his door. "But thunder clouds were never far away…I guess you got those blues / And when you get those blues, there’s nothing you can do." Broudie even gets a little twangy on "Things Just Happened," "Said and Done" and "The Story Goes," recalling the Lilac Time’s more pastoral work. "Said and Done" has one of the album’s more telling lyrics as well, when Broudie admits, "Over and over, life keeps messing with my plans."

Broudie is no stranger to dark territory – songs like "Perfect," "Touch and Go" and "All the Things" also mine the same themes and moods, and rank among his best – but Four Winds is the first Seeds album where even the up-tempo songs are downbeat. "Ghosts," for example, is cut from the same mold as the breezy "What If…" and "You Bet Your Life," yet it’s done with minor chords, producing a reaction along the lines of "I’ll dance, but I sure as hell won’t feel good about it." Luckily, the sun shines through the clouds here and there, notably on "Don’t Walk on By" and "I Still Feel the Same."

With any luck, Four Winds will go down as the album that Broudie needed to make in order to make peace with his brother’s passing, rather than the moment where the band went off the rails and never returned, as it were. It’s the same impeccably crafted pop that Broudie is known for, but this batch is a tad sourer than the other Seeds albums. Still, sour Lightning Seeds is better than no Lightning Seeds at all.

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