Basic Plumbing

Keeping Up Appearances

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Basic Plumbing is Patrick Doyle's second solo project. Boys Forever was his first, and their one and only album showed that the longtime bandmember (Correcto, the Royal We, Veronica Falls) had what it took to lead a group. It was a shimmering and tough guitar pop album that was indebted to grunge, indie, and noise pop, while showing off Doyle's angelic voice and excitingly melancholy songwriting. Basic Plumbing is a stripped-down and scruffier version of that, and Keeping Up Appearances strips away any of the minimal gloss of Boys Forever in favor of a rough-and-ready approach. Doyle handles guitar, drums, and vocals, Helen Skinner adds bass lines, and the whole album was recorded quickly and with hardly any finesse from the producer's chair. The guitars jangle roughly, the cymbal crashes sizzle into the red, Doyle's fragile vocal harmonies drift through the mix like distant birds, and the bass holds it together in nicely melodic fashion. The album kicks off with a truly beautiful power pop ballad ("As You Disappear") that seems to have about five different choruses that keep lifting the song to new heights, shifts gears to a thumping, sparse garage rock growler ("Lilac"), then travels to restrained grunge ballad with a killer chorus territory on the title track. It's a breathtakingly strong start to the album and the rest of it doesn't let up very much. Doyle never settles into any one kind of song, with each track providing a new twist on the basics that brings smiles and the occasional chill. "Sunday" is a lovely electric guitar-and-voice ballad that brings things down to the emotional basics, "Too Slow" is a dreamy ramble of a tune that features Doyle's loosest vocals and the album's punchiest chorus, "Constant Attention" almost beats Veronica Falls at the gothy, twangy indie rock game, and "Bad Mood" lopes sadly along with Doyle sounding resigned to his melancholy and earning his striped shirt and cardigan. Keeping Up Appearances is tuneful and exciting, morose and beautiful, noisy and sweet, and it should have heralded the triumphant arrival of Patrick Doyle as a solo artist. Sadly, he didn't live to see its release. The album is a fitting tribute to Doyle's music and also a tragic reminder of the great songs he will never write or play.

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