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Autoliner / Jack & The Beanstalk / Adam Schmitt | Be / Cowboys In Sweden / Demolition (all Parasol)
One of relatively few labels setting a consistent benchmark of quality, it's reassuring to report that the latest batch of releases from Parasol all maintain their reliably high standards. Autoliner feature John Ross, Tom Curless and Brian Leach, who's long been associated with Parasol, having released his excellent debut 'The Sunrise Nearly Killed Me' as well as a pair of albums with the now defunct Sugarbuzz on the label. Crisply produced with stunning three-part harmonies, powerhouse drumming, crunching powerchords together with a few lush string arrangements thrown in for good measure, 'Be' announces with some fanfare the arrival of an exciting new power trio. Incorporating influences from Phil Spector, Cheap Trick and Eno's more pop oriented material into the mix, from the turbo-charged Weakened which opens the album and throughout, 'Be' is an adrenaline-fuelled pop rush that should create quite a buzz. Jack & The Beanstalk have been at the forefront of the Australian power pop scene for several years, but following the recent marriage of front man and songwriter Joe Algeri, they've subsequently relocated to his new wife's home country, Sweden, hence the album's title. Owing something of a debt, at least in name, to Lee Hazlewood's similarly named album 'Cowboys In Sweden', it isn't the change of musical direction its title may imply. Urgent and energetic, the band's blend of Small Faces cocky exuberance, Big Star's flawed genius and their own irrepressible enthusiasm all make for a winning formula. It's not one that's necessarily going to gain them great riches, but it will certainly please existing fans and should help them acquire some new ones in the process. Finally, the name of Adam Schmitt is one power pop fans have been waiting to see adorning the cover of a new album for the best part of a decade. Hailed as something of a wunderkind following a pair of promising albums for Reprise, 'World So Bright' in 1991 and 'Illiterature' in 1993, Schmitt has neglected to release anything at all since. Choosing instead to divert his talents to the production of artists like Tommy Keene and Erik Voeks amongst others, many of whom have also been released on Parasol, after several years gestation he has finally completed 'Demolition' for the label himself. The album underwent several alterations prior to the release of this final version and was originally pencilled in for release as far back as October 1997. Comprising ten tracks, which Schmitt selected after having trawled through the archive of demos he'd recorded since 1993, it's not entirely clear if 'Demolition' should be perceived as his third album proper or rather as a transitional release. With the title itself acknowledging that the tracks are demo recordings, although technically it's not obvious, the inclination is to assume the latter. Whatever the answer, the question is academic, as the songs on 'Demolition' have definitely been worth the wait. Muscular, melodic, cleverly arranged pop rarely sounds this good and with some equally adept lyrical input as well as the reminder that Schmitt is also an exceptional guitarist, and really deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Jason Falkner and Matthew Sweet. He's also working on a band project, Diamond Star Halo, with the aforementioned Brian Leach (Autoliner) and Bob Kimbell (Weird Summer, Jack Logan), so hopefully 'Demolition' represents just the first explosive round of Schmitt's welcome return to recording.

Geraint Jones
October 2001