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Kevin Tihista's Red Terror | Don't Breathe A Word (Blanco y Negro)
"If she would lower the bar I'd have a chance to compete" Kevin Tihista sings on Pretty Please, and we'll have to assume 'she' doesn't pick her men based on their ability to write songs. With 'Don't Breathe A Word' Tihista (it apparently rhymes with 'Fiesta') enters the Premier League and, on this evidence, looks set to mount a challenge for the title. Perhaps only Elliott Smith and Joe Pernice possess similar ability to find such beauty in sadness. Yes it's smoother at times than is initially comfortable for those of us who like our heartbreak laid bare, and it does invite comparisons to Brits from Roddy Frame to John Lennon (though comparing him to the likes of Travis and Coldplay, as some have, seems way off the mark), but this Chicago-based songwriter instils a healthy dose of soul amid the slick arrangements, his voice and guitar leading the way. Melancholy spiked with humour and unashamed romanticism, 'Don't Breathe A Word' rarely puts a foot wrong, the faux-soul groove of Outta Site Outta Mind the one misjudged step amid a stellar selection. Early single Lose The Dress (on the increasingly influential Easy!Tiger label) and most of the recent Rough Trade mini-album resurface here, the gorgeous Sucker and Beautiful showcasing Tihista's gift for a sweeping melody to dramatic effect. "The only good impression that I ever made was on my pillow" Kevin Tihista sings on Stoopid Boy and we'll have to assume he doesn't read his own press.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002