Breaks Co-op

The Sound Inside

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It's generally a sign that listeners are in for a change when a band includes a nearly 20-minute-long CD-ROM track on the making of and reasons behind the new album. Such is in fact the case with Breaks Co-op, the former hip-hop- and electronica-oriented New Zealand duo comprised of Hamish Clark and Zane Lowe, who released their debut, Roofers, a breaks record, in their native country in 1997. After the relative amount of success that came after that, they moved to Britain, where Lowe became a television and radio personality. Their musical dreams didn't subside, however, and upon hearing Andy Lovegrove sing, they decided that his voice was just the thing Breaks Co-op needed and that a new album was in store. They also decided that they needed to approach things from a more song-based standpoint, rendering their name pretty much obsolete. Because The Sound Inside, which garnered a big hit in New Zealand with its single "The Otherside," a painfully saccharine Pacific coast feel-good song that seems uncomfortably similar at times to CSNY (a common comparison, in fact), is more adult pop/rock than anything else. Breaks Co-op seems very much influenced by soft, simple acoustic guitar chords, at best sounding like José González and at worst a kind of James Blunt-meets-Extreme combo that is more painful than anything else. This is unfortunate, because there are actually a few pretty good cuts on the record that get swallowed up by the mediocrity of everything else. Both "Question of Freedom" and "Wonder" show elements of electronica, with heavier drums and funkier bass, and function pretty well in that organic chillout kind of way, and "Too Easily," a reworking of the (in this case) Chet Baker song "I Fall in Love Too Easily," is stunning, Lovegrove's voice, for the first time, shying away from over-sentimentalism and pulling out the supreme melancholy that resides within the lyrics, the trumpet line, and the bittersweet guitar (its beauty made more depressing by the fact that it's followed by the very nondescript "Lay Me Down"). It's always a risk when a band abandons one sound for another, and while it seems to have paid off for them financially (or at least popularly), musically Breaks Co-op hasn't come out ahead.

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