Before I get stuck into the review, Bittersweet are letting you download their new single 'Fraudulence' and artwork for free from their website, so you have the perfect opportunity to make up your own mind.
As for me...
James Dean Bradfield has a certain vocal line. It's like his default, and I must say it's a terribly bad idea for anyone else to latch on to it, since for a good many years, the Manics have produced little but drivel. On their debut album,'Lying, Drinking and Losing', Bittersweet have somehow managed to make the vocals on the first four tracks sound uncannily like JDB singing his trademark summer-by-numbers indie pop, and in the light that things start to drastically improve on the fifth track, it is a daft way to start a debut album. Track five, the ambient intro 'Music For The Latecomer' and the more sparsely instrumented song it precedes 'See Through', feel like the real beginning, painting a convincing ambient backdrop for the words, rather than smothering them in regulation guitar/bass/drums. 'The Real Here' takes the same approach maybe even more effectively. Sure, now it's something like Talk Talk meets Ralph McTell, but now it's organic where before it was mere fast food. I liked the music hall clip and the fading seaside imagery. 'Fate' begins promisingly, with Zeppy acoustic strumming, but sadly goes all formula indie again...noooooooooo!!!!!! If they'd have been rough and raw at the edges, this, the opening tracks and the next track, 'The Last Few Months' might have been ok, but any traces of raw emotion have been smoothed out into a flat coat of magnolia emulsion. 'Paintwork and Promises' is a slightly better attempt at soft summery rock, as it comes from a more Neil Young direction, and the final track 'Last Chance Saloon' has a more melodically experimental basis which sets it apart. Wish there'd been more of this, but even this song disappears into MOR in the chorus.
Though there are successful atrocities like Keane around, I feel that a band should never arrive at the middle of the road deliberately, and certainly not on a debut album where you are trying to snare the listener and establish an identity. There are myriads of bands around, and you've got to have some unique selling point or you're going to fall by the wayside. Roly Bailey and Mick Heath, the singer-songwriters behind Bittersweet, are undoubtedly competent musicians and know their way around crafting a song, but without any real fire or ice on display, or hinted at beneath the surface, I'm left unmoved.
5Chris Nettleton's Score