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Dakota Suite | Songs For a Barbed Wire Fence / Alone With Everybody (AMOS and Glitterhouse)
It's the emotional nakedness that some find a tad disturbing. That uncomfortable voyeuristic feeling that you're privy to the lowest moments of someone who was pretty low to begin with, like eavesdropping on an argument or spectating at a panic attack (albeit a really mellow one). On record though, it's a more restrained indulgence, with Chris Hooson's narcissistic doubts and demons offset by a more ranging musical scope than the band present on stage. Songs For a Barbed Wire Fence is their first album proper, overdue for release after three warmly received EPs, each of which - along with a few extra tracks - is collected on Alone With Everybody. Hooson's lethargically expressed lyrical gaze rarely wavers from self-examination, as each song's refrain hinges on a statement of doubt or loss. Like Charles Bukowski (whose short story You Kissed Lilly is the inspiration for their song Because I Could Not Stop For Death) it's the poetry of the outsider: 'did you put your ear to the breastplate of God / and find it breathless? / Have the things you've seen left you blind and scared?' All of which might become cloying if not for a rich musical bedding that places them alongside the likes of the Tindersticks. Even the intimate confessional strums steer clear of over-indulgence (just), with effortless electric lead lines or the slack slide of Johannasong; the sophisticated tinkle of a Fender Rhodes or the light precision of John Shepard's drumming. In comparison Alone With Everybody is, by nature, a slightly uneven collection, as much in terms of mood as anything, as Songs For a Barbed Wire Fence is nothing if not convinced of its own sorrow. Aware of this, they've helpfully printed the dictionary definition of 'anhedonia' on the inner sleeve: 'the inability to feel pleasure; the loss of interest in formerly pleasurable pursuits.' Paradoxically there is a sense of pleasure, or at least contentment, to be found skulking around sections of Songs for a barbed wire fence. The slow-paced instrumental interludes which interdisperse the songs speak of a kind of melancholy satisfaction, seeming to say, 'I'm unhappy, but I kinda like it.'

Martin Williams
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue