Shelleyan Orphan

We Have Everything We Need

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The return of Shelleyan Orphan after a decade-and-a-half of inactivity, a Tim Buckley cover for a tribute album aside, found the duo of Jem Tayle and Caroline Crawley at once changed and intriguingly fixed in never-never land. Now at a far remove temporally from their winsome if not precious youth, there's a sense of easygoing confidence in their performances and songs that happily rode out all criticism; if anything their brand of not-quite-prog/not-quite-easy listening art rock seems more distinctly in its own sphere. Crawley's voice throughout conveys elegant sweetness, while Tayle's electric guitar playing adds sting to his orchestral arrangements as much as his acoustic guitar. His occasional lead vocals, as on the beautiful cello-tinged "Evolute," provide a slightly jarring but still interesting contrast. Add to that a few gentle left-field touches throughout, and the album often keeps the listener on their feet, as the banjo and fiddle on "Something Pulled Me" leads into an easygoing hoedown, the cyclical drone-and-vocal meditation of "Host," Charlie Jones' dramatic bass work on the penultimate song "Bosom." A not so secret weapon is the return of Boris Williams, the former Cure drummer who had also played the same role on Humroot as well as in his late-'90s band with Crawley, Babacar; his varied, understatedly powerful performances throughout add a surging heft to the songs without overwhelming them. If there is a weak spot, though, it's that some of the lyrics are a bit headscratching; hearing Tayle and Crawley concluding the near waltz-time groove of "I'm Glad You Didn't Jump Out of the Car That Day" with the words "Bomb bomb suicide bombers disturb me that's what they do" is almost up there with Boy George's "War is stupid."

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