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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Simon Townshend

Looking Out Looking In

Review by Jason Hillenburg

Simon Townshend's album, Looking Out Looking In, is his fifth release, but marks a couple of firsts for his work. It is his first album since 2002's Simontownshendis and his debut on the Eagle Rock Entertainment label. The album's eleven songs feature strong, layered production, particularly a sharp mix that places Townshend's vocals in the center of a clearly defined sonic landscape. Unsurprisingly considering the time between albums, Townshend has assembled an impressive collection of songs full of maturity, eclectic musical sensibilities, and a broad range of emotions and experiences.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Forever and a Day

The opening number, "Forever and a Day", is a rousing composition with an aching, impassioned Townshend vocal. The lyrical content does a respectable job of avoiding the clichéd tropes typically endemic to the love song, but the music's mounting tension needs to reach a stronger peak faster.

Stay
This is an acoustic based tune with a fat bass line percolating beneath its surface and an appealing pop flavor, but the sing-songy quality of the chorus weakens the song's impact.
Looking Out Looking In
The title song is another acoustic based song with great guitar playing and a sleek, streamlined pace. Due to its lyrical content and another committed vocal, it sounds like the most personal song on the album to this point. Ben Townshend's drumming is another high point.
She Asked Me
Here is another superb song with a wicked sense of humor concealing an undercurrent of bittersweet resentment. Crouched in acoustic guitars and tasteful percussion, Townshend wisely resists the temptation to adorn the music with needless dramatic effects that would have ultimately diluted its effect.
Something New
The pulsing bass and churning acoustic guitar driving "Something New" gives it a rising feeling, as if the song is preparing to shift into a higher gear, but never quite breaks through. This shows off more pronounced pop sensibilities.
There's A Girl
Also more pop-oriented than anything on the first half of the album, this is the album's only true failure as it meanders for nearly four minutes without a much needed memorable bridge or chorus to lend wider appeal. It qualifies as an interesting musical exercise, but little more.
Electric Friend
Here is a quirkier tune than the two preceding numbers that opens with a crescendo of distorted electric guitar. The song is a relatively obvious nod to his older brother's band, The Who, but it isn't mere pastiche. Instead, the tune has nice energy and lift, an almost Ray Davies-like vocal performance, and vague, but intriguing lyrics.
Bed of Roses
This song is problematic for me. While I admire the track a great deal, particularly its aching vocal, sensitive instrumentation, and often wrenching lyrical content, the production is ultimately inappropriate. The sonic qualities are immaculate, but the song's subject matter is far from immaculate and the intelligence and maturity of the composition deserves a grittier, warmer presentation.
Still Love
"Still Love" is another song that presents this problem for me as it, once again, amply demonstrates Townshend's ability at composing resonant, compelling material, but the pristine staging robs it of some of its immediacy.
Making Waves
The second to last track on the album, "Making Waves,” is another solid lyric with strong imagery, but the song's musical problems drag the cut down some. Once again, the lack of an appealing bridge or chorus hurts what is otherwise good material when the piece’s abrupt transition into the chorus pulls me out of the number completely as a listener.
Make It
The album's finale, "Make It", has the grit and immediacy that "Bed of Roses" lacked, though the former song is nowhere near as personal. The nasty wah-wah guitar adds a lot to the composition, but the drumming drives the song with its propulsive, confident power.
 
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