Mr. Wright

The Fancy Man

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    6
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Mr. Wright, first name Kevin, creates an agreeably passionate yet elegant album with The Fancy Man, winning ready comparison to more than a few winners from the El label's '80s days. Perhaps unsurprisingly, early El stalwart and then-current labelmate Nick Currie (aka Momus) assists on the album, but Wright isn't trying to specifically re-create the likes of Circus Maximus. For one thing, a few songs are perhaps a bit more classically '60s in a rock sense, though the ringing Byrds lead guitar on "Hangover Square" isn't the be-all and end-all of the song in question, thankfully. Instead, Wright's rich but resigned voice gently loses itself within the arrangements, which often show a striking variety in a suggestive rather than demonstrative way. It's heard in the soft-echoed guitar backing on "A Dream" or the blend of backing party chatter, squeaky backing vocals, and drum machine-created light lounge funk on "Bohemians." The just-queasy-enough backing on "Death of Love," with keening background singers and slow, deliberate guitar swirls, helps nail down the song's unsettling atmosphere. Hints of everyone from Bacharach and Gainsbourg to Wilson and Spector appear throughout the album, but there's an agreeable crispness in both the music and Wright's singing which avoids simple re-creation -- consider the difference between the calm but clear vocals and the rich keyboard swells on "Wonderful" as a prime example. The jaunty boulevardier swing of "Silent Film" (with accordion backing, of course) gets a sharp, melancholy undertow with both Wright's metaphors and subtle, descending chords in the music. Meanwhile, other songs, like "Blue Cinema" and "Around the May Pole," suggest more of a burnt, late-'80s indie beauty; the Go-Betweens could have easily recorded the former if so inclined, while the gentle blend of keyboards and acoustic guitar on the latter is to die for.

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