Friday, 29 March 2013

Harper Simon - Division Street

Album review by kev@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


If you first became aware of the work of Harper Simon with his eponymous 2010 debut album, then you've missed a large part of his career as a session musician and guest player for artists including Yoko One and Carl Perkins. A newbie he was not, and the impressive cast for that record (which included members of the original Nashville A-Team and other legendary guests) was not just down to having a famous father in Paul. He'd earned the respect himself after many years as a noted and accomplished talent. His second album 'Division Street' has toned down the roster of famous friends yet still includes contributions from members of The Strokes, The Attractions and Wilco.

Having such a famous dad is always going to be something of an albatross around your neck, especially when there is a natural vocal similarity, and you would think the influence is always bound to creep in. What's interesting is the way in which it does so. If we look at Simon & Garfunkel we can clearly see their influence on more modern indie and alternative rock bands. You can hear their harmonies in Teenage Fanclub, The Lemonheads famously covered 'Mrs. Robinson', and it's groups such as this that Harper appears to be channeling here. This is very much an alt-rock album but the sound is updated, it's no 90s throwback. Another close reference is The Flaming Lips' recent return to writing songs instead of constructing sonic experiments. The overriding impression though, is that Harper Simon is his own man making his own music, and this album is a big step up from his first solo outing.

Pick your favourite US alt-rock band and you'll find that Simon can compete with the best of them. 'Veterans Parade' is similar to Grandaddy at their finest, singles 'Bonnie Brae' and ''99' are gorgeous indie numbers, full of melody. The title-track and 'Leaves Of Golden Brown' are incredibly well-crafted and deserve full attention. Turn these songs up loud and listen, don't play them as background music. He roughs things up on the distortion-loaded 'Dixie Cleopatra' and the ace, punky 'Nothing Gets Through'. That lyrical knack runs in the family and can be heard throughout 'Division Street'. Yes there will always be the shadow of a legend hanging over this man's head, (you can hear that in 'Just Like St. Teresa') but his old man will do well to produce an album as invigorating and ear-tinglingly good as this again.







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