Ashtray Boy

Everyman's 4th Dimension

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A touch, but only a touch, more serious than past albums, Dimension is Ashtray Boy's highlight to date, a perfectly entertaining combination of hooks, music and performance that is a joy from start to end. That's true even when the songs themselves project a sweet melancholia, which they do more often than not. Lee's wonderful way with his dry and deep voice succeeds as ever, while the two lineups, still unchanged and still working in perfect sync, once again deliver the goods. While there are no great surprises per se on Dimension, there's still a certain hard-to-define something which makes it the band's standout record. Call it Lee's more upfront lyrics (for the first time, complete words for all songs appear in the liner notes) or the strength of the performances, but it's there. Or call it in part the continued variety of other instruments to supplement the basic lineups, like the charming keyboard melody on "Neighbours from Hell." The sometimes not-as-apparent disturbing connotations in past songs come through more here; "Little Boy" isn't the easiest song to nail down, but its gentle acoustic swing delivers the tale of a pederast, not exactly the most winsome of subjects. However, this isn't a case where some putative "maturity" needs to be taken as the yardstick for measuring an album's worth -- Dimension is just plain good, a perfect justification for why spare, low-budget pop/rock will always have relevance when done right. As before, various guest performances add to the proceedings; the Australian band is accompanied by Mary Dyer on vocals on two tracks, recalling Liz Phair's fine duets from Suite. Meanwhile, the final track on the album, "The Tourist Living in a World of Pain," features Ajax label boss Tim Adams on sax, while cult figure Cath Carroll sings with Lee.

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