Vic Conrad

Vic Conrad and the First Third [Hidden Agenda]

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Vic Conrad is an Australian musician. Usually that phrase conjures up visions of hard rockers like Radio Birdman or arena poppers like INXS, but Conrad, like countryman Richard Davies, follows the path of capital "P" pop: pure chamber-psych pop with highly arranged songs, loads of tempo shifts, complicated sounding chords and song structures, and sparkling harmonies. Highlights like the Syd Barrett-meets-the Beatles "People Who Care," the beautiful pedal steel-driven drift of "Emily & Liam," the vocally adventurous and melancholy "Hideaway," and the Youngian country balladry of the epic "Enough of This" are moments that put Conrad firmly in the up-and-comer category. There are a few problems with the record: The three songs right in the middle of the disc, "The Day Before She Died," "Magneto," and "M. V," are short, overly quirky songs that don't really connect like the rest of the album does. Luckily they are over quickly. One song that takes far too long to finish is the endless "DNA for Alice," which is eight minutes of the same two notes being played loudly on a piano while some atmospheric treatments hover around annoyingly. It is actually kind of interesting, but Conrad should have cut it by at least half or stuck it on the end as a bonus track. It isn't enough to ruin the album, however. This is a fine debut. Anyone who conjures up memories of the late, lamented Epic Soundtracks, as Conrad does on the bouncing "See My Way," can't be all bad. In fact, Vic Conrad is quite good.

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