Chris Connelly

Whiplash Boychild

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With his reputation as a neo-industrial shouter long since established, Connelly went a long way toward completely confounding all expectations of him with Whiplash Boychild, a commanding and often quite surprising solo effort of equal power and delicacy. The opening track, "Daredevil," sets the pace. Connelly's commanding, Bowie-like croon -- delivering either a sourly romantic lyric couched in political terms, or vice versa -- soars out over an arty groove, making for a fine start. Calling Boychild Connelly's cabaret album wouldn't be that far off the mark, especially given his vocal-and-piano cover of cult crooner Scott Walker's "The Amorous Humphrey Plugg." Compared with Marc Almond's splashy theatrics, Connelly is a little more abstract and restrained, approaching his material with a certain calm. Occasionally the music is extremely avant-garde: "Ghost of a Saint" consists of a curious rhythm loop and violin, while "Confessions of the Highest Bidder" is nearly ten minutes of static, white noise, and unintelligible vocal samples. Things are mostly straightforward, though: from the clean, forceful pound of "This Edge of Midnight" and the elegant, dancefloor-pitched lead single, "Stowaway," to the minimal keyboard-and-atmospherics of "The Last of Joy" and "The Hawk, the Butcher, the Killer of Beauties." Connelly's studio band discharges its duties well -- especially the rhythm section of bassist Stuart Zechman and drummer William Rieflin -- while the production is remarkably clear, without ever being sterile or losing the impact of the music. Add to that the occasional off-kilter sample from unknown Spanish or French sources, and Whiplash Boychild makes for a fine solo debut.

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