The Blue Nile

Peace at Last

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The members of the Blue Nile seem to have taken seriously all those articles and reviews about what audiophiles and technicians they are, and this time around they've spent a half-dozen years concocting an album that sounds like they made at least some of it in their living rooms rather than their space-age studio. They achieve the appearance of simplicity and humanity by foregrounding either an acoustic guitar or piano on most tracks, by restraining other instrumentation, by making their synthesizers sound like strings most of the time, and by using real strings on occasion. All of which makes for appropriate settings for Paul Buchanan's songs of domestic contentment. "Happiness," "Sentimental Man," "Holy Love": the titles tell the story, though they don't reveal the underlying fear that it will all go bust. ("Now that I've found peace at last," Buchanan sings to open up the album, "Tell me, Jesus, will it last?") Nor do they explain why a guy who keeps insisting that he's happy sounds so mournful. Buchanan belongs to the Bono/Peter Gabriel school of throaty emotiveness, in which sudden, arbitrary ascensions toward the falsetto signal fits of otherwise unacknowledged passion (or maybe just a sneeze coming on). In Buchanan, the singing style and the loose structure of the songs make his protestations of tranquility unconvincing. That may be what he intends, especially since they lend an implied depth to what is the Blue Nile's lightest effort yet.

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