Below is a review I wrote for Hot Press that I thought might be interesting to stick up. It’s of the Julian Plenti record and the version below is the original-before the subs got it. A lot of writers can get precious when subs change/edit their copy but it honestly never bothers me too much if it’s tweaked. If they feel that I’m sometimes a little too cheeky then it’s their call to take the rougher edges off it (and truth be told one extra line was inserted and that was it anyway). I generally find that if you can’t be honest and up front then what’s the point? Anyway-here it is, warts and all, the way Elvis intended.
Julian Plenti Is…Skyscraper (Matador)
Four out of five
Ok, just so we’re all agreed-side projects are a load of old wank, aren’t they? Nine times out of ten the songs are just self-indulgent slop that isn’t good enough to make it onto the new album and they stink like PePe Le Pew’s private parts after one too many light ales. Mercifully though, there is a light at the end of the poop encrusted tunnel. After enduring god knows how many albums from the likes of celebrity nudist Tommy Lee or that odd looking bass player from Korn, it looks like finally, we’ve got a side project that’s not only worth buying, but it may even have eclipsed the output of anything they’ve done before. Step forward Julian Plenti and his debut record Julian Plenti…Is Skyscraper.
If you’ve never heard of him, don’t fret, he’s not some tambourine player in an unheard of Scandinavian cock rock band, it’s actually the moniker of Paul Banks, the singer from those tortured tunesmiths Interpol. According to legend, some of the songs on the record have been kicking around in acoustic form for well over a decade. You wouldn’t think it however, as now that they’re fleshed out and fully realized you’d be forgiven for thinking they were always intended to be heard this way. There are 11 tracks on offer and while the songs still drip with the same paranoia that has made Mr Banks famous, they’re somewhat softer than the robotic suicide rock of Interpol.
Opening track ‘Only If You Run’ gives you a good guide to where Banks’ is going with things. Less Joy Division and more Pixies (particularly ‘Where Is My Mind?’) the song is a rousing way to start a record. Better yet is second track ‘Fun That We Have’ which sees the singer get his rock on yet peppering the more pedestrian segments with strange bleeps and tech-y textures. Third track ‘Skyscraper’ is the first proper tune that hints at its former incarnation and a gorgeous tinkling piano and weird loops help lift the acoustic based number out of mere self indulgence. There are plenty (pardon the pun) of surprises on offer too. ‘Games For Days’ has a muted Gaslight Anthem-like guitar tone, thumping drums and a skeletal riff that’ll stick in your head for days, ‘Unwind’ is full of Imperial Teen-inspired moog-y woogie and album closer ‘H’ has a Bangra feel to it, which quite surprisingly works really well and doesn’t make us feel like bursting our own ear-drums at all.
As with any release there are a few let downs though. The distorted female vocals on ‘Madrid Song’ let the tune down a bagful and ‘No Chance Survival’ doesn’t really progress further than a nice finger picked arpeggio. Still, Banks’ powerful baritone makes up for the short-comings providing the perfect vocal accompaniment to his melancholic threnodies. If you found yourself let down by Interpol’s somewhat underwhelming effort that was Our Love To Admire, then take solace in the fact that Julian Plenti…Skyscraper scales new heights for the musician and outdoes most of the current material from his day job. Maybe putting up with the likes of Fieldy’s Dreams was worth it after all.
Key Track: ‘Unwind