The Verlaines

Way Out Where

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1993's Way Out Where was the Verlaines' final album before an extended four-year layoff, and the first one where Graeme Downes enlisted a second guitarist, Paul Winders, to help with the layers of jangle that are one of the group's sonic signatures. The problem is that it's pretty much the only one in evidence here. Producer Joe Chiccarelli reduces the group's multi-dimensional sound into a flat, monochromatic post-grunge blur of politely distorted guitars. Only one track, the aptly named closer "Dirge," features the haunting string and woodwind arrangements that are so integral to earlier Verlaines albums, and the uninspired production makes the songs sound much more alike than they really are; the Chills-like rush of the driving "Blanket Over the Sky," by far the album's best track, shouldn't be so sonically similar to the jaunty, music-hall-like "This Valentine" or the almost Merseybeat-like sweetness of "Cathedrals Under the Sea." Way Out Where isn't a bad album -- the songs are typically excellent, and Downes' voice is as fine as ever -- but it's certainly a disappointment in comparison to the band's earlier work.

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