Far from the Sun

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With a reshuffled lineup (Keith McLean on bass, Huw Dainow on drums) and no guest appearances, Graeme Jefferies led the Cakekitchen back into the studio for Far from the Sun. The general aesthetic of the band having been long since established, nothing changes on this third group effort per se -- Jefferies is still the guy in charge, vocals tend towards the softly sung/spoken, and avoiding obvious conclusions in a rock format is still the name of the game. The anthemic lift of "Stranger Than Paradise" begins things, interestingly enough, with one of his most straightforward numbers -- it's not that far off in feel from fellow Kiwis Bailter Space at that point in time, a massive guitar surge. Similar numbers where Jefferies gets to flex his underground guitar hero muscles crop up throughout. There's the coda of "Fahrenheit 451," an inspiring blast of sound, and the equally soaring conclusion of "Man in the Mirror" (nothing to do with the Michael Jackson of the same name). Plenty of points throughout, though, reconfirm that this is from Graeme Jefferies' mind -- "Overexcited" is a great example of same, its mechanical samples and clatters meshing with the screeching feedback deep in the mix. The sometimes nagging, sometimes lovely violas on the title track, matched with Jefferies' usual vocal approach, makes for another classic Cakekitchen moment, striking without being comfortable. The calmer fingerpicking guitar and folky singing up top makes for a great contrast. The band as a whole is quite fine -- the powerful performance on "Trouble in the Underworld" is as good an example as any. Jefferies' clever, often evocative way around lyrics remains happily intact -- thus the opening to the sweet strum and strings of "Greater Windmill Street Blues": "Across the river one more winter/Safe inside an air-raid shelter/Penny says, 'Please cross the border/Bring your clothes and taste the water.'"

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