Though every bit a drop-dead impressive debut, Houdini suffers only from Long Fin Killie trying to say and do too much. Running at a stifling 64 minutes, the album comes across as a band who doesn't know whether or not they'll be entering a studio again. Jerky rhythms and random time signatures that fuse the angularity of early XTC with the intricacy of King Crimson run roughshod throughout, accented with classy ethnic flashes. Just when approaching extremity, they scale it back to a strictly bass/drum/gentle guitar groove that hypnotizes with arresting success (see the last half of the nine-minute "How I Blew It With Houdini," along with no less than half a dozen other instances of the same nature). Luke Sutherland's voice is so soothing that you can lose track of what he's going on about, but once you actually hear one of his lines, it's hard not to be drawn in. A well-rounded lyricist, Sutherland spins a tale of a promiscuous lamplighter who prefers boys to girls on one tune ("The Lamberton Lamplighter") and handles obnoxious male behavior on another ("Love Smothers Allergy"): "The bottom lineage men disgust me with their foolish pose and backward glances." Mark E. Smith guest rants on the sharply sarcastic "The Heads of Dead Surfers," which afforded Long Fin Killie their only substantial radio recognition in the U.K. Much like Gang of Four's "Cheeseburger" or a response to the Stranglers' ode to sexism ("Peaches"), a galloping rhythm and circular violin line frame Sutherland as he rails against beach jocks: "Let's get a big mac, wig out to happening sounds, check out the chicks on the beach, and chill out." Well hey -- here's a happening sound, rocker.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman