Shouting Quietly

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Produced by Stephen Street, and hailing from Northern England, Bradford manage to avoid the expected -- they don't sound anything like the Smiths. They sound like classic Elvis Costello and the Attractions, a comparison that results from the style of vocalist and songwriter Ian H.'s songs. In some respects, Ian H.'s lyrics do follow some of the Morrissey paths -- depressive stuff, often ironic, sometimes wry, sometimes bitter. Usually, however, there's an attempt to head in another direction -- the lyrics here are something of a surprise, tending toward poetry rather than song. Like Costello, though, he does like to tell stories; some of the other Costello techniques, too, are distracting -- "Greed and Peasant Land," built on a forced pun, ends in such a way that it can very easily be mistaken for Costello himself, which may or may not have been the intention. This, and the focus on the English condition, isn't too bad of a thing -- it makes for listenable, engaging, and subversive music -- but it does make one wonder what Bradford will sound like when they find their own true voice. Bradford, then, have good qualities -- Ian H.'s lyrics and knack for a good hook primary amongst them, along with assured performances and likable vocals -- but don't have that genuine flash of originality and distinctiveness that will place them at the top of the heap.

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