Puressence

Only Forever

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A song or two aside (the climactic "Gazing Down" certainly has some of the spirit right at the start), Puressence's second album took the band a bit further away from the Chameleons comparisons that dogged the group on its first effort. While there's definitely an appreciation of the dark and mysterious undercurrent of Manchester music that has made such a mark over the years, it's all the more the band's own interpretation of it this time. Mike Hedges' production work is some of his best in years, while Dave Eringa handles a fair share himself, and between the two of them the band's blend of delicacy and surging power is captured to a T. "Sharpen Up the Knives," the brilliant opener, itself would have to silence more than a few doubters, balancing a restrained, nervous opening with a brawling energetic explosion of sound, in turn making the midsong break's return to calm all the more nerve-racked. That James Mudriczki has a voice that could almost be a pure and pristine vocal from soaring, swooning '60s pop is really the secret weapon of the band -- without aiming for a ghost of Jeff Buckley/Thom Yorke falsetto as directly as certain bands, he achieves the same lift and grace. It's what helps make the cascading power of "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" and "Never Be the Same Again" so grand, but at heart it's the interplay of the both lush and brusque guitars that truly sends the songs. Given how many bands were to follow that ended up creating dull photocopies of Radiohead's own unique blend of tension and beauty, the comparative obscurity of Puressence and Only Forever is all the more criminal. This is an album worth thousands of Travises and Coldplays.

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