Toshack Highway

Toshack Highway

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The fruits of Adam Franklin's first foray outside of Swervedriver is a mixed bag of somber acoustic tracks, sci fi-meets-spaghetti western instrumentals, and a little worldly dabbling. Franklin, Charlie Francis (studio accomplice of REM and High Llamas), and Jeff Towsin (Sophia) take on enough ideas to make this a sprawling mess, but repeated listenings divulge an LP brimming many (sometimes) cohesive concepts. The majority of Toshack Highway alternates between instrumental and vocal tracks; the clutch of Franklin-sung tunes will appeal to fans of Swervedriver's dusky, slo-motion B-sides from 99th Dream and Ejector Seat Reservation. They sometimes resemble the lighter, more whimsical aspects of early T. Rex, but Franklin's lyrics are normally more brooding and resigned than Marc Bolan's. The instrumentals are playful, balancing out the more serious vocal tracks. It's a pretty safe bet that Franklin and co. had been studying up on their Air prior to entering the studio: "Waking Up" is a goofy slice of dub with some brass phrasings -- a child chuckles and exclaims "wake up!" as an older gent yawns. There's enough imagination boiling over to make for several Toshack releases. But it is a bit awkward to hear Franklin sing "I will find some way to survive" during the pedal steel-based "Sisyphus" only a few minutes after "Waking Up," so perhaps future releases could use a little conceptual streamlining. More than anything, the record screams for Franklin to devote an entire LP to his downcast vocal chestnuts.

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