Pale Fountains

From Across the Kitchen Table

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The Pale Fountains' Ian Broudie-produced second record ditches a couple of the scatterbrained influences of the debut, so it makes for a slightly more consistent listen. Not all of the odd wrinkles are abandoned, though; they still sound as if they are trying too hard to distinguish themselves from the rest of the flock. The Fountains' strength lies in folksy pop, but on a few too many occasions, the incessant smoothness and inability to latch onto one style holds them back. Surprisingly, the title track is almost synth-pop, but a smattering of horns makes sure it isn't completely such. On "September Sting," they try their hands at Laurel Canyon country-rock and fall flat on their jumpers. When they want to, they can write finely tuned, sophisticated pop songs that are quite pleasant. Instrumentally, "Stole the Love" doesn't sound a great deal different from the Smiths. "Shelter" and "Jean's Not Happening" are fine strummers. Though a decent record and an improvement over the debut, Kitchen Table frustrates. They were too anxious to zig or zag when they could have stayed the course. After establishing themselves as a cult band, the Pale Fountains eventually broke up, with Michael Head forming the similarly cultish Shack.

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