Banjo or Freakout

Banjo or Freakout

  • AllMusic Rating
    7
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Naming your band in a way that reflects the musical content can be a pretty good idea, letting people know where they stand before they listen. 3 Inches of Blood is a good example, the Softies is another. Banjo or Freakout is not a good example of a representative name. Firstly, there is no banjo to be heard anywhere on their self-titled debut album. Secondly, there’s not even a hint of freakout. Alessio Natalizia probably should have named his band Quietly Pretty Ballads or Calmly Drifting Soundscapes if he wanted to be honest, since most of the songs on the record have a little of each of those elements in their makeup. Natalizia at heart is a bedroom balladeer, playing sweet and intimate songs that have an Elliott Smith feel, though less broken and more hopeful sounding. On top of these heartfelt laments, he and producer Nicholas Vernhes add layers of reverb, hazy clouds of sound, and good old-fashioned Eno-esque atmosphere. Sometimes, like on the album-opener “105,” the girl group-inspired “Move Out,” or the heavily distorted, achingly pretty alt-rock ballad “Black Scratches,” his approach pays off with large dividends, giving the songs a coating of mystery, and Natalizia’s breathy wisp of a voice lots of sound to bounce around in. Other times, mostly when the songs are less well-constructed, the result can be sort of unfocused and indulgent. “Can’t Be Mad for Nothing” seems to last for ages as the synth bass pounds and the reverbed vocals and guitars spin out into infinity; the chopped blues riffs and murk of “Fully Enjoy” aim for epic but end up repetitive. That being said, the one time that Natalizia sneaks up on freaking out, on the guitar-heavy and hypnotic Spiritualized-sounding rocker “Dear Me,” he shows much aptitude for the style, and it makes you wish he had done it more often. Despite the record's very few flaws (and any feelings for what could have been) Natalizia’s sonic inventiveness and the strength of his songwriting carry the day. He definitely deserves credit for going beyond the usual sounds you might hear on a modern singer/songwriter album and it works often enough to make the record a treat for anyone who wants something confessional and real but not boring.

blue highlight denotes track pick