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The Witness Protection Guide
Under A Sun - Witness
Member Name: indiecater
Under A Sun - Witness
Date: 04/08/01, updated on 08/09/01 (43 review reads)
Advantages: When They Are Good They Are Very.
Disadvantages: But When They Are Ok.
Sometimes you get a feeling for when something is going to be good. That twitch you get when you read the glowing reviews. The words you watch out for like 'surging choruses', 'glorious rush of big tunes', 'effervescent guitars'. Just like candy to a child and twice as addictive.
With the omens looking decidedly good I sprinted to my local record store to pick up 'Under A Sun', expecting rather naively to have discovered this years 'Lost Souls'. By the time I had reached the fourth track I wasn't exactly enamoured. The whole thing sounded big and brash, a cavalcade of sound with little heart and a distant lathering of MOR leanings. I guess sometimes you just can't tell.
Thankfully repeated listens did uncover a good number of jewels but there are a number tracks that just don’t tickle the right heartstring. Witness don't sound completely new, in fact the sound they produce will have you scratching your head wondering where you heard it before.
WITNESS the classy MOR manoeuvres.
The title track ‘Under A Sun’ could easily have come from an anonymous stetson wearing crooner. In fact it's not that bad at all, it’s just that it sounds so borrowed and perfectly crafted for an ear out for easily thrills. The guitar work is accomplished but boasts a weary strain that is hard to fully embrace.
At first ‘Warning Song’ sounds like it could be quite fine. The guitars are skewed wonderfully off-kilter and the bombast is kept to a minimum. Sadly the chorus is as bland as decaffeinated coffee and twice as pointless. Not entirely disposable then, but the right alterations could have made this into something much better.
Worse is to follow unfortunately as Witness find themselves drifting off on autopilot for the dreadful ‘Mines’. Shallow and devoid of a soul it rescues itself somewhat at the death by some nice vocal
interplay but by then even the tone deaf would have wished the batteries to their aids had run out.
WITNESS the Counting Crows.
At times Witness look too deep into what makes Americana tick so what you get is formulaic pastiches of something that is really not reliable enough to warrant adulation. ‘Dividing Line’ sounds like it fell out of a pick-up truck right on to a dusty desert highway. Initially it focuses on setting the beefy, but lightweight all the same, guitar strokes and before you can say ‘have a nice day’ it bumbles out of control lacking a distinct focus and more worryingly a sure melody.
‘Till The Morning’ conjures tight trousers and hair that trickles into a mane over fake tanned skin. Ultimately the album’s lowest point, it stinks from start to finish with the distant harmonica wail stealing its last chance at survival. Ok, it won’t offend anybody but it sounds like a band making something they know will sell.
Coming at the end of rollercoaster ride of an album ‘Pushchair’ is decidedly oblique enough to sound interesting. The country influences are obvious but the storming vocal display is hard to knock. I can see a thousand lighters being produced now that will be strung out to the rocking of this tune.
WITNESS the Rapid Eye Movement
'My Time Alone' is as close to a REM blueprint that you are going to get without having Michael Stipe on co-writing duties. Lucky then, that Witness choose to raid REM’s back catalogue circa the period when their music meant something. The rallying call that is the impressive chorus is bolstered by chords that are for once kept in tow but still resonate with a enormous clarity.
‘My Boat’ will also have you thinking of those men from Athens. This time the result is not as successful because the chorus, which is so central to the Witness cause, falls short. The s
urrounding clatter is not short on colour though as sweeping chords and distant heavy beats raise the ante.
WITNESS the Cosmic Rough Riders
Cosmic Rough Riders, signed on the promising Poptones label, pedal shiny bright tunes with a ring of yesteryear about them. Harvesting tunes by this method is fraught with danger. And so it came to pass that Witness turn their hand to reeling in the years. Shoddy, paced like an unsuccessful middle distance runner and lacking a thread that could sow its disparate parts together effectively, it passes from memory in an instant.
WITNESS the Majesty
'Here's One For You', the album's opening track gets things off on an excellent footing. The raucous guitar work might seem a little heavy handed but Gerard Starkie's juicy vocals are nothing less than resplendent. The new single is 'You Are All My Own Invention' is even better. Breaking from a rhythm not unheard of in the Shack camp, the song pours it’s heart open revealing a chorus that would melt the peaks of Everest. The dramatic tension that is evoked by the song could easily shunt emotions from even the most cold hearted of people.
‘Closing Up’ is deft, it’s steady momentum slowly revealing a refreshing breeze of lush vocals. The diamond piano key sequence adds the necessary class and by the end you’ll making calls to get in contact with those loved ones you haven’t spoke to in a while. The jangling guitars seal the deal on a pretty perfect song.
The more lithe and fragile the vocals seem to get on this album, the higher the quality quotient tends to rise. ‘Avalanche’ is perfectly tipped to have you swooning under balconies as perfectly formed falling snowflakes add to your sense of destiny. It’s quite short too, adding to its nicely petit posture.
I have struggled gamely to come to terms with this album. It contains a
scatter of influences that on their own would have me scurrying for cover. Against all this doubt, it is hard not keep coming to the conclusion that there is something rather magical at work. For me though, 'Under A Sun' is only one half a true classic. Like appreciating classical pieces without ever going out of the way to hear them the other half of 'Under A Sun' will be admired from a safe distance.
Witness have created an album that will doubtless brighten many peoples lives up. From where I’m sitting, however, the search to find this year’s musical soul mate continues. For more information on Witness check out www.witness.uk.com
The site is good to look at but navigation around it is quite frustrating.