Monday, August 23, 2004

nominee number seven.

picture center "our true intent is all for your delight" (north american)

"... picture center prove that they are still very unhappy about lots of things, and as befits a band led by ex-field mouse mark dobson, that there is still much emotion to be be wrung from the strange bobby wratten-esque dichotomy whereby an artist who seems so lyrically sullen and defeated can produce such powerful and uplifting music as to make you think, surely they realise they must have something going for them ? the power starts with track one, "fireworks october 1990", singer mary doyle weaving a tale of urban misery and martyrdom with a gently incrementing sweep of instruments behind her - it is a fantastic song, then offset by the higher-tempo "for youth and valour" in which a lament for a squandered education, this time sung by anne gilpin (the two - we think maybe new - singers largely alternate vocal duties throughout, as well as an extra male vocal nicely dovetailing with anne's on the languorous "lp2" before a looping bass takes them both home) splices mourning for a burned down school with all the wonders of god's strings and brass. meanwhile, some dismembered electronic sounds flit through "never hated you more" and "the sky at night" allows ian catt to emphasise his flawless production credentials, guitars layering themselves across the mix until the night fades once more to silence. but whether it's "funcity" pointedly tracing the perils of addiction or the oddly lyrically upbeat "my life at last" anchored by a stunning, delicate vocal from mary , "our true intent is all for your delight" (the irony of the title will burn into you as you listen) is a work well meriting the wait.... throughout managing to sound classy without ever quite sounding loungey, this record picks up hints of "for keeps" field mice (at times quite heavily), camera obscura and the rain-stains of harvest ministers, but the combination of the uncompromising - dare we say hardcore - sentiment and the exquisite beauty of much of the backing between them place picture center at the vanguard of something - perhaps the new wave of "keepin' it real" indie ?... very, very bleak and very, very good"

to be sure, there are many other reasons why picture center are picture perfect. these include but are not limited to their limited edition fans' cd released to select and lucky listeners this summer - from the moment they legitimise ash's "burn baby burn" with a slow, flickering piano flame, it is a testament to their power and to their modesty. but for present purposes, let's stick to the facts - that picture center have released one of the best albums of the last year.

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