Martin Newell

The Off White Album

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Newell's second widely distributed album (he self-released some tapes under his own name in the 1980s) is a bit more precious and ornate than The Greatest Living Englishman, particularly when the songs employ string arrangements. At these times especially, this sounds a bit like Elvis Costello's unplugged/string quartet releases. Newell's phrasing, too, is getting more deliberate in a way that also faintly recalls Costello, though Newell doesn't sound as calculated in his delivery. As far as the songs go, it's largely more of the same: witty, affecting vignettes about British characters, simultaneously evoking a glorious past and a somewhat unsettling, frustrating present. It's not his best record, but it's still more inventive, intelligent British pop than what you hear from most other such artists that try to carry this kind of thing off.

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