Pete Francis


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It is clear from Pete Francis' solo debut that he possesses many of the gifts that make a great and unique songwriter, but there is something hidden within many of the tracks on Untold that suggests he has the want, but not the courage, to break from the humdrum early-'90s college rock clich├ęs. This is immediately apparent with the album opener, "One Train," which begins with a predictable chord progression supporting a chimey guitar line that leads into verse one, but when the chorus hits, the song ascends into full beauty with arching strings and glittery glockenspiel and reveals that Francis has some clever tricks to divulge. The addition of singer Nadine Lafond's backing vocals and the simple pulsing Hammond B-3 of Paul Tillotson are applied to tighten up the song into an eddy of pleasant listing -- but underneath these textural niceties, Francis' attachment to conventional song structure still looms. That's the only reason Untold fall short -- it sounds like Francis didn't quite know what to do. It is a frustrating listen precisely because it is clear he takes himself a bit too seriously to make a fun, predictable radio-friendly record, and yet it seems he never fully lost himself in the vision of creating an entire album of the innovative pop that creeps out of the headphones in places all over this recording. The result is an album that is filled with nuggets of brilliance surrounded by nondescript bridges serving no purpose other than to kill time until the next section of music where Francis truly explores his options. This is not to say Untold isn't a likeable album, just that Francis is always hinting that he may have withheld something more complex and substituted a less adventurous payoff. There is plenty to grab a hold of, like the shifting track "Julie," a great example of what Francis is capable of. With its snakey guitar and organ work and a nicely arranged yet hushed chorus that crescendos and breaks before the start of each verse, the whole track shifts enough to be consistently engaging. However, Untold seems destined to be a precursor to the hopefully more calculated Pete Francis music to come.

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