Monday 19 March 2012

Culkin - Several Sundays

Album review by KevW

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Are guitars cool or not? The ultimate symbol of rock 'n' roll is still the weapon of choice for an endless stream of kids with the desire to create their own sounds and guitars are used in abundance throughout the alternative music world. However, in most cases a lead guitarist is forced to hide their light under a bushel. The instrument is to be played with restraint to fill songs with a wall of sound and, if you're feeling generous, maybe a slight solo every now and then. Anything more will be seen as excessive fret-wankery, to be used only by boneheaded heavy-metal or prog rock throwbacks. Thanks to the abuse of many an egomaniac, guitar prowess is to be treated with the utmost caution.

Skip back 20 years and this wasn't the case. Alt. rock bands such as Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Deus and their ilk were happy to make the guitar the star of the show and for a few years it thrived. Then The Darkness came along and ruined it for everyone. Culkin seem hell-bent on resurrecting the roll of the six-string in the fight against the banal. Bred from the same Swedish stable that brought us the brilliant Sad Day For Puppets, this quartet use their instruments wisely, but don't shy away from the odd blistering solo, as on 'Pay Per Fist', 'Kim Heroin' or the ace 'Left Behind'. Their approach pays dividends, employing similar levels of distortion and virtuosity that made Sugar's 'Copper Blue' such a classic album.

The key to 'Several Sundays' success is the lack of indulgence; the sound is never abused, never over the top and definitely never over-produced. The production is subtle, capturing songs that feel live and organic, and it's this warmth that makes the album feel alive. Sure there are lots of guitars and they're not scared of a solo, but it's done in a warts-and-all manner, with discord and occasionally strained vocal delivery. They're wonderful attributes to have, giving character instead of being sterile. 'Several Sundays' is a proper grower too, taking a few plays to reveal its hidden depths, but if you like guitars used correctly - and lots - then you should give Culkin some time. Their mission statement is to "make you start believing in indie-rock again", and with this record that mission is well and truly under way. In this corner of the world guitars are most definitely cool.

Culkin's website

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