Some at-home, four-track recordings really aren't all that good, regardless of what some adherents of the form seem to imply about its automatic virtues. My Place in Space, the nom de plume of one Darren Cloutier, proves the point with the too-quirky-and-cutesy-for-its-own-good Ten Songs From Planet Earth. The sci-fi/space age theme might not be a worry -- after all, it certainly hasn't hurt Man or Astro-Man? in the slightest -- but Cloutier lacks the wicked wit and live-wire energy which makes that group so enjoyable. Robbie the Robot graphics -- even when printed out using what looks like 1988-era Macintosh technology -- are not quite enough. The problem isn't the recording quality so much as the songs, and those are, well, not much. Opening "Melody Lane," with its trudging semi-carnival attempt at winsomeness, sets the tone, and while not everything is quite so shruggingly "eh" throughout the rest of the album's brief length, there's really not much to praise. Cloutier's nerdish singsong voice has its own precedents, of course, as any Jad Fair fan will tell you, but some imitations aren't worth the thrill. Meanwhile, most of the songs don't really move at all in interesting ways, while attempts to spike things up -- the time-shifts here and there in "Adventures in Abduction," say -- go over like a lead balloon. Nearly every song is a trudge, and a fairly uncompelling one at that. Once or twice Cloutier gets it right -- the almost video-gamey twinkles on "Char Star" add a bit of sparkle to the song, while "Harmony Drive" has a yearning touch on the chorus that definitely stands out. But for the most part, this is one level above sci-fi convention songs and about as necessary as a collection of Chilliwack's B-sides.
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