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Present Company

Present Company

Review by Gary Hill

There is something to be said for the power of shorter albums. I think this is a disc that could have benefitted from the removal of a few songs. It's not that any of this music is weak, it's not. It's just that there isn't enough variety for this many songs to really have a chance to shine. I suppose you could say that a lot of people now only listen to a song at a time, but if you subscribe to that theory, why release a full album at all. Either way, this music is very retro in nature, feeling much like The Cure a lot of the time, but leaning toward other acts at others. Really, all these songs are good. It just doesn't hold up that well taken as a whole.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Intro
There is a trippy, psychedelic, dreamy angle to this short introductory piece.
I Can't Turn It Off
There is such a cool bass heavy groove as this works out. It has hints of jazz. The vocals seem to bring an 80s vibe. This is hard-edged and very retro in texture.
It's Not Looking Good
While there are still some definite 80s leanings here, this a more modern sound, too. I dig the bass work, and there are some almost King Crimson-like guitar work. The dreamier elements on this still bring plenty of that 80s thing, though. They drop it down to percussion and vocals later. That section has a cool multi-layered vocal arrangement, but loses me a little. After some build up, it eventually works out into more of a full arrangement. 
Normal
The arrangement on this is bass-dominated as it gets underway. There are some cool angles of weird sound here, bringing a texture that calls to mind artists ranging from Belew-era King Crimson to Violent Femmes, Bauhaus and more. This is a very retro-leaning slab of sound. It has plenty of quirky angles to it, and really works well. This is a standout piece.
Hold Me
I dig the guitar sound on this number. The piece has some hints of dreamscape sound. This is heavily rooted in the 80s Goth type sound with its moody textures.
Prickly
Coming in mellower, this eventually grows out to more driving, powered up stuff from there. This has plenty of that retro texture to it. The song is a classy one that stands as on of the highlights here.
Forever
This really makes me think of The Cure to a large degree. It's a classy tune, but it does have some awkward angles at times. I don't think this one works as well as some of the others here do.
Something's Not Right
An energized 80s styled tune, this is fun stuff. It's nothing all that different, though.
This Time
To some degree I'm reminded of Gary Numan and Tubeway Army on this song. The tune really does a great job of transporting me to the early 80s. Again, there is no real paradigm shift here, but this song is one of my favorites on the disc.
2.29
Another slab of 80s styled sound, this is solid, but the formula is beginning to wear a little thin.
Drive
We are definitely back into Cure-like zones. I really dig the guitar soloing on the later instrumental section. The dreamy quality to the vocal parts manages to elevate this, too. Those two things combined keep this from feeling samey, and actually landing as one of the highlights of the disc.
Millennial Mauve
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this song. It's just at this point the set is starting to become pretty monolithic. That is precisely why I think it would have been better had they cut a few songs and saved them for later.
What You Wanted
While this suffers a bit from the whole lack of variety, it does have enough energy in its Cure-like arrangement to stand fairly tall despite that.
Dead Plants
Take that 80s sound and add a little Alan Parsons project to the mix. You'll be pretty close to this number. It has some groove and soul to it that isn't always present on the rest of the album. I like the piano-dominated section quite a bit, too.
 
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