The Electric Soft Parade – “Idiots” (2013)
Brighton brothers Alex and Thomas White a.k.a. The Electric Soft Parade released one of my very favourite albums of 2002, “Holes In The Wall”, an album that had songs so catchy, so rich in melodies, harmonies and creativity, it strongly hinted that they were going to be an absolutely massive band. It was an absolute crime that it missed out on the 2002 Mercury Music Prize to Ms. Dynamite’s album, but – no matter – it seemed like this indie/power-pop band were destined to be one of the all-time greats. Unfortunately, it didn’t really turn out that way as their second album, 2003’s “The American Adventure” was met with large indifference and, although 2007’s “No Need To Be Downhearted” was a rather good release, it has to be said that it appeared that ESP seemed to have had their chance and let it slip by. In fact, the last I heard of the White brothers was when I went to a Ben Kweller gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden in November 2012 and they were his backing band. This led to me being reminded of what a great band they were and pulling out their CDs for a trip down memory lane. “Holes In The Wall” has stood the test of time and remains one of my favourite albums ever released. Thanks to my new-found interest, I also started following them on Facebook and was pleased to discover that they were working on a new album.
Well, here it is… and it’s absolutely bloody brilliant. It’s a sheer pleasure to listen to an album which is finally a worthy follow-up to their superb début. The gold-plated tracks start immediately; “The Sun Never Sets Around Here” is a shimmering slice of layered, hook-laden, indie-pop complete with chiming pianos, widdly synth solo and happy hand claps. “Summertime In My Heart” continues in the same vein, being a thoroughly appealing three and a half minutes of upbeat, sunny, joyous guitar runs and smooth, soaring harmonies. The lead single from the album, “Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone” is a nice, mellow, cheery song which has a sound reminiscent of much of Chris Difford’s solo material but, I have to say, is an odd choice for a single when there are much stronger songs on the album. “The Corner Of Highdown And Montefiore” is absolutely gorgeous, a stunningly beautiful, slightly mournful song, which builds to a refrain which throws in strings, harps and, I’m sure, at one point, the kitchen sink. It runs the risk of outstaying its welcome, just like 2002’s “Silent To The Dark”, but I think they just about pull it off.
The chiming title track “Idiots” reminds me of a more lushly-produced Teenage Fanclub and has lots of sublime major to minor key changes, whereas “Mr. Mitchell”, a jaunty, electric-piano led, character-based song is part Whitlams, part Lightning Seeds that, melodically, never goes quite the way you expect it, making it a pleasingly original and enjoyable listen. “One Of Those Days” is pleasant enough but a little ordinary, whereas “Lily”, although slightly reminiscent of Ben Folds’ “Give Judy My Notice”, is a great, brilliantly written track. Penultimate track, “Welcome To The Weirdness” is a glistening, shiny helping of indie-rock with a beautiful, grin-inducing Queen-like guitar solo at the end and the album ends with a gentle piano ballad, “Never Again” which brings the album to it’s conclusion tastefully and succinctly. It’s difficult to think of a demographic who wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this album. It’s indie enough to appeal to the discerning crowd, has enough pop sensibility for the more mainstream music crowd to love it, their evident Beatles influences should be enough to draw in the classic rock lovers and their intelligent, creative arrangements may even pull in the prog-rock chin-strokers. Although the musical path they tread isn’t particularly ground-breaking in itself, the compositions and arrangements give “Idiots” a very fresh and original flavour. All-in-all, although there are a couple of tracks which don’t quite hit the heights of the rest of the album, The Electric Soft Parade have released one of the best albums of the year and, certainly, a strong contender for best album of their career.