The Cannanes / Explosion Robinson

Trouble Seemed So Far Away

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    8
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Recording an album without iconic drummer David Nichols might be utterly strange for many Cannanes followers, but in respects that's the genius of the band -- that while still remaining "them," the group members can experiment like this so readily, and with striking results. Explosion Robinson's way around easy but strong rhythms (having the release appear on SlabCo makes perfect sense) makes Trouble Seemed So Far Away one of the band's best. Even more uniquely, Robinson himself is the only person to appear on every track, with Stephen O'Neil and Frances Gibson generally but not universally providing the core of the band. The big difference courtesy of Robinson is that his beats push the band's performance forward in the mix -- this is in many ways the Cannanes at their most direct and structured ever, as can be heard from the start with "You Name It," Gibson's singing and the guitar glaze from O'Neil sounding very forward and almost triumphant. Even when Robinson handles keyboards and production instead of beats he maintains the atmosphere just so, as on "This Is the Song" or "Treading Carefully," the latter of which features some great drumming by Ronnie Seward treated with a touch of dub echo. The sinuous "It's Hopeless" is particularly noteworthy, riding a combination of Velvet Underground-style chug and a bit of psychedelic echo and drone while still sounding more like something from the 21st century than the 20th. Some moments, combined with a gently breezier vocal approach, suggest a parallel to similar turns by Saint Etienne or the Field Mice -- "Felicity," not an Orange Juice cover but specifically acknowledged as being inspired by said tune, and especially the lovely "Sound of Seduction" are among these highlights. Even at its slightest, like the instrumental, broadcast-sampling "Radio Moscow," Trouble is a gentle, winning treat. Warm and wry liner notes from writer Brian Boies, who contributed some lyrics, complete the album experience.

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