An argument could be made for In Ribbons topping the Pale Saints' debut, and it would be a rather solid one. Thanks to yet another stellar job by "knob twiddler of the mighty atmospheric pop bands" Hugh Jones, the Pale Saints sound full and polished, gleaming and bright. What makes this a lesser record in comparison to its predecessor is the absence of that loose sense of adventure from before. The songs are strong, the musicianship is improved, and Meriel Barham's presence as second guitarist and vocalist provides for more muscularity, but In Ribbons is missing the slightly perverse sense of experimentation that The Comforts of Madness had in spades. The unpredictability is gone, which is one of the few downsides of a band whose members are getting to know each other musically. That doesn't prevent In Ribbons from being a great record, stacked to the gills with great songs. Barham's sporadic contributions provide a fine spoil to those of Ian Masters. The mid-tempo moodiness of "Thread of Light" benefits from Jones' excellent treatment of her voice, with swooning backgrounds that dart between the left and right channels. (The verses bear odd sonic resemblance to Duran Duran's "Save a Prayer" -- no kidding.) Her reading of Slapp Happy's "Blue Flower" tops Mazzy Star's version, and "Baby Maker" also makes the grade with its dizzied liveliness. Masters' love for the abandonment of rock constructs strikes upon a zenith on "Hair Shoes," a drumless cluster of limpidly jousting guitars that simultaneously jiggle, rattle, moan, twinkle, and reverberate. His miasmatic vocals seal the track off as a brilliant approximation of the oceanic wash of 69-era AR Kane. Otherwise, more accessible fare, like the sprightly "Throwing Back the Apple" (a single) and the melancholy epic "Hunted," are also accountable for the record's success. Though these tracks' more traditionally structured material doesn't sound a great deal different from many of the Pale Saints' peers, the wan voice of Masters -- who sounds less world-weary here -- clearly sets this unit apart.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman