Guillemots

Red

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AllMusic Review by

Guillemots (pronounced gilly-mots) 2006 debut Through the Windowpane carried with it a wispy tendril of melancholy that settled on even its most jubilant tracks, especially on the singles "Trains to Brazil" and "We're Here." That heady mix of gray English skies and worldbeat-infused indie pop didn't always work, but when it did the results could be goosebump inducing. The same cannot be said about the band's polarizing sophomore effort, Red, a slick, loud, over-produced volcano of late-'80s/early-'90s inspired dance pop (opener "Kriss Kross" veers dangerously close to C+C Music Factory territory) that continuously erupts a new idea every three or four seconds without ever establishing a solid base for the fireworks to illuminate. With this much going on, it's hard to know what was there to begin with, but peeling away the layers of songs like "Big Dog" and "Last Kiss" reveals that all of the window dressing may have been brought in to hide what were essentially mediocre songs, which is a shame, as there are moments where all that glitters is indeed gold. Bandleader Fyfe Dangerfield's vocals are impressive as ever, adapting to each left turn with chameleon-like swiftness, but the barrage of chord changes, keyboards, drum machines, horns, strings and samples obliterate any memorable motif or successful turn of phrase before they ever have a chance to connect, resulting in an aural assault comparable to listening to Kajagoogoo, New Order, Coldplay, and the Flaming Lips all at the same time. Red is at its best when it mines the new wave/Europop of Level 42 and Ultravox, especially on the infectious "Clarion," but those moments are few and far between. Still, Guillemots remains a fascinating band, and while its musical eclecticism remains as divisive as ever, there's no denying it has the potential to craft a modern classic, which makes Red all the more infuriating.

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