Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Lone Wolf - The Devil and I (Bella Union)

In many ways the name ‘Lone Wolf’ sums up this début album from singer-songwriter Paul Marshall, at least thematically. The majority of the songs on this album tell tales of a single man either endeavouring to win the heart of an unsuspecting female or losing it through some act or other of indecency. Mixed into these tales is a certain sinister edge, whether Marshall is discussing the woman in question’s “innocent skin” or how he’s now “the voice inside her head... driving the girl insane.” The levels of self deprecation of this album are extremely high, and the frustration is brilliantly conveyed by outbursts of noise such as the cavernous conclusion to “Keep Your Eyes On The Road.”

Elsewhere the misery that is symptomatic of his loneliness is exuded through the use of more subtle arrangements. The best example of this is “We Could Use Your Blood,” which makes use of haunting backing vocals and Shearwater-esque horns and xylophones to transform what starts out as a simple acoustic piece into an extremely beautiful and intricate one.

The blueprint for every song on this album is essentially the same: start quietly, either on acoustic guitar or piano, build slowly with the addition of more instruments until a crescendo is reached at the peak of the song. This is by no means a new formula, but at his best Lone Wolf does it as well as anyone else. Every song has at least one moment of brilliance in it, either lyrically or musically and often both. However sometimes just the one highlight isn’t enough and there are a couple of less interesting tracks here such as “Russian Winter” and “Soldiers,” which both appear on the album’s significantly weaker second half.

‘The Devil and I’ is an album that may have a difficult time finding an audience. It lacks that originality that can make it stand out to hard core indie fans and harbours few real hooks for the more casual listener to latch on to. Nevertheless anybody who does give it a chance will have a hard time not being charmed by Marshall’s mischievous tone and delightful imagery and there is a chance this will be a gradual hit as time rolls on.

Words : Rob Hakimian

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