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It’s the smooth, urbane soundscapes of central Europe, all neon and slick steel design
John Walshe, 19 Nov 2002
He may originate from the west coast of Ireland, but Perry Blake’s musical outlook is European in its nature. No windswept ruralisms for Blake, no slumming strumming, hoping for his three chords to hit paydirt. Instead it’s the smooth, urbane soundscapes of central Europe, all neon and slick steel design.
More sensory manipulation than ham-fisted amateur dramatics, that’s not to say that Blake’s California is bereft of feeling: far from it. It’s just that his emotions are sometimes couched behind subtle arrangements: the beat poet’s heart inside the body of a pop sophisticate, a spiritual sibling of Karl Wallinger’s World Party, perhaps. As he sings himself, “These pretty love songs, they’re what keep us alive” (‘Pretty Love Songs’). Not that he’s a shameless romantic either: “The world is not enough love, and it’ll never be/ Just fall into the arms of someone who lies” (‘Saying Goodbye’).
The über-dark ‘The Road To Hollywood’ is where he really lets loose, casting the spectre of child abuse into the framework of a four-minute pop song, driven along by a sweepingly magnificent string section. His voice varies from a whisper to a fraught falsetto, often in the same song (‘A Face In The Crowd’).
Blake certainly has an ear for a melody and a knack for a killer arrangement, displayed from the aching opening bars of ‘This Life’ to the closing strains of ‘Venus Of The Canyon’.
Not then the stuff of preparing the party mood for a Saturday night, but California is just the tonic for a slow Sunday morning. Physiotherapy for the soul.