Walk the River

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Purveyors of the "anything goes" approach to pop music, typewriter-sampling four-piece Guillemots could be forgiven for suffering an identity crisis following the surprising housewife audience lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield gained with his recent John Lewis-promoted Top Ten cover version of Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman." Third album Walk the River may be less avant-garde than their Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut Through the Windowpane, and less chaotic than their '80s Brit-pop-inspired sophomore effort Red, but its 12 tracks show that the band isn't ready to embrace the cocoa and slippers brigade just yet. "The Basket" is an ambitious slice of psychedelic pop complete with fuzzy guitars, eerie Theremins, and an anthemic Kings of Leon-esque woah-woah chorus, the latter of which also appears on the thunderous garage rock of "Ice Room," while a flurry of chaotic electronic bleeps adds a neat twist to the Wall of Sound-inspired Motown beats and soaring girl group harmonies of "Tigers." But Walk the River really comes into its own when it lives up to the band's claims that the songs "sleepwalked their way onto tape," as on the twinkling music boxes, shuffling brushed rhythms, and Elbow-esque guitars of the lullabye-ish "Inside," the lush melancholy of "I Don't Feel Amazing Now," an enchanting fusion of mandolins, steel drums, and windswept strings, and the dreamy, '60s-inspired title track, which opens with Mamas & the Papas-influenced harmonies before shifting into an affectionate homage to jangly Merseybeat. Occasionally, the band's free-form jazz leanings drift into self-indulgent territory, as on the meandering nine-minute epics "Sometimes I Remember Wrong" and "Yesterday Is Dead," both of which fail to build on their early cinematic promise, while the pedestrian "Dancing in the Devil's Shoes" is perhaps one wistful ballad too many. Walk the River is unlikely to soundtrack any department store adverts in the future, but it's still an intimate and emotive affair which manages to pursue a slightly mellower direction while still retaining their trademark oddball sensibilities.

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