The Sleepy Jackson

Personality (One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird)

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    7
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Unlike the Sleepy Jackson's dazzling but scattered debut album, Lovers, which offered so many different sounds and ideas that it threatened to cross the fine line between eclectic and schizophrenic, Luke Steele and company's second album, Personality, focuses the band's ambitions -- to an extent. On Personality, Steele replaces Lovers' wide-ranging musical flights of fancy with a sound that concentrates on his devotion to George Harrison's Technicolor, spiritual pop (which is kind of cool in itself; after decades of musicians inspired by the Beatles, relatively few have modeled themselves after Harrison's work), and fuses it with the soft rock and symphonic pop fetishes he's also displayed in his earlier work. The album's sound is nothing if not huge. Nearly every track on the album sounds like a cross between Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," and some lost album of easy listening orchestral pop from the early '70s. Personality's ambitions to make big-sounding music about big issues (song titles like "Higher Than Hell" and "God Knows" hint at where Steele is coming from) are admirable, but too often, they're just too much. While some songs, such as "You Needed More," "Devil Was in My Yard," and "I Understand What You Want But I Just Don't Agree," are well written enough to avoid drowning in the album's lavish arrangements, the lush strings, horns, backing vocals, and sound effects that Personality is swathed in don't give its tracks room to breathe (or listeners a break to prepare for the next rush of sound). The album is impressive, especially in small doses or when Steele reigns it in a bit, as on the pretty, bossa nova-tinged "Miles Away." As a whole, it's a sometimes exhausting listen. After all, it's great to have lots of personality, but it's important not to overwhelm people with it, too.

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