splendid > reviews > 4/3/2003
The Electric Soft Parade
The Electric Soft Parade
Holes in the Wall

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Silent to the Dark"

Buy me now
Yes, at least one word in The Electric Soft Parade's name should be banned forever. But it's not entirely their fault -- they were known as The Soft Parade until a Doors tribute band threatened them with a lawsuit, and they threw an "Electric" on the front because they didn't feel like thinking up something new.

This story paints a misleading picture of the band for two reasons: first, because it seems to suggest a lack of creativity, and second, because it suggests the band has some sort of Doors influence. As Holes In The Wall proves, the duo behind the Electric Soft Parade, Tom and Alex White, have no shortage of ideas. And they certainly don't make bloated late-sixties organ-rock.

Essentially, Holes In The Wall is the sound of a young British band emulating Britpop heroes who, in turn, were showing their love of early- to mid-'90s American indie rock. As complicated as that may sound, you need merely to hear songs like "Empty At The End" or "Sleep Alone" to understand: both sound vaguely like a Travis/Turin Brakes-ish take on "Coffee & TV", which itself was a Britpop take on Pavement. In other words, they sound poppy and upbeat and melancholy all at once.

It's mainly the music that's poppy and upbeat. It's almost all acoustic stuff, save for the odd electric guitar flourish, as at the beginning of album opener "Start Again" -- or, after a tinkly piano introduction, "This Given Line". Lyrically, this is fairly dark stuff, featuring downbeat lyrics like "When I needed someone to talk to you were the only one around / Small cost, it pays to be alone" ("Silent To The Dark"), "All I know is no-one is my friend / And it's empty at the end" ("Empty At The End") and "There's a never ending sorrow / And it's wasting me away" ("It's Wasting Me Away"). It would all be horribly depressing stuff if not for the fact that the Whites merely sound like they don't feel like getting out of bed -- it's not as if they're staring into an endless gulf of loneliness and despair. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it's not; if the lyrics were sung in a full-on moan, they'd make Cat Power sound twee.

There's really only one depressing thing about Holes In The Wall: Tom and Alex were in their teens when they recorded it last year. Teenagers should not be this good! They should be too poppy, or too trite, or too by-the-numbers emo -- not recording albums that sound better than bands ten or fifteen years their senior. Yet this is exactly what they've done on Holes In The Wall. Hopefully they'll continue down the path they've started here, rather than following in the footsteps of the last big British brother act...



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