Erland & the Carnival

Closing Time

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The third long-player from Orcadian singer/songwriter Gawain Erland Cooper and ex-Verve multi-instrumentalist Simon Tong, Closing Time represents a sort of sea change for the duo, who up to now had built their sound on a foundation of largely '60s and early-'70-inspired U.K. folk-rock. While the overall vibe is still overwhelmingly melancholic, Cooper and Tong have adopted a more pop-oriented approach to their craft that eschews much of the prog-folk architecture of previous outings in favor something that leans a little closer to the evocative, meandering post-punk emissions of bands like the Church, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Joy Division, or to get a little more contemporary, the Horrors. Standout cuts like the sweet and salty, psych-rock-kissed "I Am Joan," the triumphant "Birth of a Nation," and the evocative title cut prove that the duo is more than capable of shouldering a proper chamber pop album, albeit one with enough goth undertones to invoke a thick fog over the Thames. Still, it's an eternally overcast day for Erland & the Carnival, and some of the hooks take some time to reveal themselves, especially on the album's more circuitous numbers like "Is It Long 'Til It's Over?" and "That's the Way It Should Have Begun (But It's Hopeless)," both of which suggest a less cheeky Divine Comedy, but Cooper and Tong never sacrifice melody for melodrama, as even when things get a bit too serious ("Radiation," "They're Talking About You Again," and "Daughter"), the tones are undeniably dulcet.

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