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7,010 out of 10,000:
Chamber Strings sound a lot like later Crowded House. I recently read a review of Neil Finn's latest album on NME's website. It described this former Crowded House leader's work as "shite" or some other of those British terms that makes those toothy freaks of the United Kingdom so indecipherable. I'm pretty sure from the context that the reviewer hates Neil Finn, and always has. Perhaps they had really good music in England in the mid eighties, because I thought Crowded House was a breath of fresh air. Whenever I was trapped listenning to someone's top forty station, there were few such happy oasi as "Don't Dream It's Over". So maybe the new Neil Finn record is "shite", maybe it's not, but don't write off the guy's whole career. Crowded House's biggest sin was their continuous drift further into the mellow, leaving some of the snap of their Beatlesque melodies --back then, every other guitar band wasn't doing it-- and smart harmonies behind. Which is where we find the Chamber strings.

Don't know Crowded House from Bananarama? Well, then, sorry about that first paragraph. How about John Lennon? This has the feel of some of his spacier ballads. Only Chamber strings isn't as good as Crowded House was, and of course doesn't get to be in another sentence with a Beatle. Lead man Kevin Junior, whom some may remember from the Rosehips or Mystery Girls, has a nice, likeable face, dresses sharply, and can write competently good if not compellingly great songs. There are a lot of strings (presumably played in some sort of chamber) that have the effect of a hackneyed production device joining a band. Sort of an Acoustic Light Orchestra.

The most hummable tune on Month of Sundays is "Make It Through September" with a bouncy piano, a good tune and some chronologically and thematically scattered lyrics about summer and love. I'm pretty sure in one verse Junior describes December as "The end of summer/Autumntime". Maybe he's saying September; I'll give him the benefit of the doubt until they put lyrics on their website. Maybe, like a good rock star, he's just confused. It's a fine song anyway.

Unfortunately, too many ballads just drift in the slick mellow production, and sometimes the songwiting seems lazy. Too often Junior falls back on languid "doot de doots" on a song that hasn't fully explained itself. An irritating deviceused a FEW times is the Beatle trademarked fadeback, always some dreamy continuation of the song just played, and allways unnecesary.

This isn't a bad record, and I could see how some could like the Chamber Strings. Perhaps diehard Crowded House fans or Sarah McLachlanians wanting to trade up. I can't however, see anyone saying "This is the greatest album in the world!" You've got to shoot for the best album ever. This is just soft and nice.


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