Before Needs

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For Balcony's second album, majordomo Steven Lester cleaned up the production, creating a fully realized sound collage. Though Balcony's initial release, 777, has more immediate tunes, Before Needs is more compelling. "By All This," "Glittering Sacrifice," and "Loving You Always" (with its many Bowie marks) all capture the feel of 1980s alternative pop/rock, yet somehow avoid the nostalgic feel of most retro songs. "In the Meantime" is flat-out astonishing in its previously unthinkable (but definitely workable) fusion of goth rock and sunshine pop. The lounge-y "Black Sheep Girl" is kept from being just that, with integrated percussion and dissonance. Lester has also made Before Needs a more listener-friendly release, toning down the industrial influence and lead guitar. In fact, "Ariel" is the closest he's come to a straightforward pop song. The album is lighter lyrically as well, most evident on "Ariel" and the tender "Something's Wrong," another Balcony number that could easily pass for a Scott Walker solo track. "Candy Factory" is a beguiling closer, with Lester effectively answering his own hypothetical question: What if Sinatra had embraced new wave? Before Needs ends with one final eye-opener, appropriate for a record full of surprises.

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