Robert Deeble

Earthside Down

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Robert Deeble's second album, Earthside Down, is a solid hour of arty sulking. That's not necessarily a cut on his songwriting -- the record displays a definite talent for mood-setting, a knack for offbeat arrangements and a good ear for the mellow and melancholy. It also displays a dismal lack of variety. Deeble's quiet, minor key acoustic guitar is well augmented by rich cello and appropriately sparse, treble-heavy percussion. At its best the album sounds like a severely restrained acoustic Radiohead record, but the muted melodies are almost identical to one another, and Deeble's droning mumbles are undermiked and quickly irritating. The album would benefit much from an occasional major chord and the odd increase in tempo. Deeble has yet to learn the art of sustaining a mood without sacrificing tonal shifts. Overall, the album is the musical equivalent of that quiet guy you dated in college who spent all his time in the corner of the coffee shop smoking cigarettes -- at first his mysterious melancholia seems compelling, and you're drawn in by the sheer effort of trying to understand his mumbling. But by the time you really get to know him, you're interrupting every conversation shouting, "What? What? I can't hear what you're saying! What are you saying? Would you please lighten up?"

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