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Belasco | Simplicity (Splendid Music)
Not so long ago, I went to a tiny Brighton pub venue to have a look at Belasco, the latest recruits to S.N.F (Slow is the New Fast) Brigade. It was one of those evenings when chatter and clinking glasses and ringing tills all but drowned out the fragile sound wafting from the stage. Singer / guitarist Tim Brownlow, bassist Duff Battye and drummer Bill Cartledge looked pissed off to be there, first up on an ill-matched four act show. I liked them, and so did my friend Jason. We were the ones right at the front, in the mosh-pit. Free of such distractions, Simplicity, Belasco's debut, is a little charmer of understated emotional punch. I am presuming that the band has taken its name after self-help guru, Dr. Joseph Belasco - the obtuse lyrics deal with insecurity and self-examination, and so indicate this likelihood. It also seems that there may be cut 'n' play at work - "I know that I'm a little bit tired / and if she had a car but not today / now is not the time / and I know that if we left by the train / the leak for the rain in my roof" - far from conventional lyrical structure, by any stretch. Some may view such outpourings as utter drivel, but I feel that there is a great deal of depth, and much to unravel in Tim Brownlow's melancholy, oft unsettling songs. Sonically, it is generally slow and gentle, with only occasional FX, piano or other keyboard figures embellishing a classic trio sound. There are a couple of worrying moments, when proceedings threaten to veer towards a bigger 'rock' sound, but they are over quickly, sparseness and sanity soon restored. It is the lyrics that fascinate though. The excerpt above is the opening verse of Nothing, where Brownlow also states "I just think everything's wrong." His impassioned vocal with such dark material provokes thoughts of a lo-fi Radiohead, and this is further illustrated on Psycho. Against gentle acoustic strum and twittering birds, the narrator examines the eternal anthropological puzzle that regardless of education, standing and demeanour, every single one of us is capable of extreme violence, and revenge on any physical source of massive inner turmoil. Despite such heavy concerns, Simplicity is not depressing. It is intelligent, thought-provoking, very pretty, and well worthy of investigation.

Tom Sheriff
June-July 2001

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