The Passage

For All & None

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The Passage's second album, recorded with the main lineup of Dick Witts, Joe McKecknie, and Andy Wilson, is understandably a different beast from Pindrop, if only because of the refocus on a slightly more straightforward lineup. The qualities that were evident on Pindrop -- a clever and sometimes unsettling intelligence, atypical arrangements, and surprising twists on established pop formulae; and a clear drive not to simply be part of the times but to use its common elements to other purposes -- all remain clear on For All & None. Instead of the hyper-gloss beat of so much new romantic releases or the incipient none-darker-than-thou goth underground, Witts and company's drive is magpie-like, making use of keyboards in particularly unusual ways and never embracing gloom as a specific raison d'etre. The piano/synth combination that heralds the wry anti-capital "Lon Don" is echoed throughout the album, driving notes from the former, contrasted then complemented by the various textures conjured up. Songs can shift on a dime from thick bass-heavy charges and roils to wistful guitar flows, or drop in sudden, striking silences; all while maintaining moods in involving ways (perhaps best seen in the two-part "A Good and Useful Life," touching on everything from art rock to synth disco and back again). Witts' singing is much clearer than on Pindrop, and the mix itself is generally more straightforward, though as "The Great Refusal" shows, intentional obscurity is one of the band's best qualities. The strongest song might be "Photo Romance," at once strikingly beautiful (note the bells) and extremely sharp with its critiques of the roles of love. LTM's reissue includes both sides of two related singles, including a crisp rush through "Troops Out" and the only officially released songs with Lizzy Johnson, whose lead vocals provide a striking contrast with the band's never-too-slick grooves.

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