Ed Harcourt certainly has a grasp of atmospherics, and he's steeped -- some would say marinated -- in his influences. There are some really marvelous tracks on Here Be Monsters, the songwriter's debut album. "Something in My Eye," which is lush with trumpet and strings, has an evocative tune and a vocal in a languid stupor, while "Beneath the Heart of Darkness" sports a great lead-in and such witty, ear catching lyrics as "spluttering like an army of artillery sporadically firing." The ending veers into the experimental, with a hurricane of noisy static before a calm resolution. "Wind Through the Trees," sounds like the forlorn hand of Erik Satie skittering its way across a piano, with the dreamy refrain "You can't run from me/'cos I'm the wind through the trees." Beautiful. Other tracks warranting further ear time are "These Crimson Tears," with its cello and muted trumpet wafting after-hours from some jazz club alleyway, and "Apple of My Eye," which has a mock Motown/spiritual vibe, with handclaps and a much beefier vocal than the one featured on the earlier Maplewood EP. What remains is less noteworthy, and the penultimate track, "Shanghai," comes with an awful, possibly ironic guitar break, and sounds like a Buggles reject. It's a baffling puzzler given what preceded it, making one wonder about the artist's allegedly vast back catalog and his possibly tenous hold on quality control. This artist contains multitudes, though, and it looks like the gifted ones are in the ascendant. Follow his upward trajectory.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Joseph