CD England Made Me [12 Tracks] (CD 1340948),
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England Made Me [12 Tracks]
Black Box Recorder
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 4939072
Black Box Recorder: Sarah Nixey (vocals); John Moore, Luke Haines.
Engineers: Teo Millar, Pete Hoffman, Phil Vinall.
With the gentle acoustic-electric guitar mix, metronomic drum beats, and Sarah Nixey's lovely breathy vocals, England Made Me does not seem on the surface to be a sardonic comment on anything, but rather an exquisite, even upbeat, bit of pop. The more one digs, however, the more one unburies. Black Box Recorder are harshly critical of life in England, the bland, dull mundaneness of daily living as well as the stale political world, and their debut album touches on issues ranging from teenage sex and single mothers to repressive family life and wife swapping. Such topics are seemingly impossible to weave into listenable pop music, but the songs that multi-instrumentalists Luke Haines and John Moore write are cleanly stylized in a way that conceals the raw-nerved lives their characters exist in but are also reflective of the internalization of such relentless barrenness. External appearances often belie the reality, the gnawing discomfort in the gut. Whereas you would expect a song called "Girl Singing in the Wreckage" to be malevolent, it is instead sweetly affecting, but also world-weary and reflective, making it sound less cynical than innocently aware of the inconsistency in which it exists. Black Box Recorder seemingly approach their subjects without judgment; the band, though, does not shy away from cynicism. Many of the songs on England Made Me are, at least lyrically, severe, naked reminders of a bloodless existence. The title song is a funereal lament, and songs such as "It's Only the End of the World" and "Hated Sunday" are sad-sack gloomy tunes that are capable of inspiring open weeping in two ways -- with their base bleakness and with the beautifully brittle music. Even when Black Box Recorder do inject a bit of pop cheerfulness into the music, it is seemingly done ironically. Each song sounds sparse because it is infused with a spatial quality that suggests beneath it all there is only emptiness, and nothing good comes from emptiness. In "Child Psychology," Nixey repeats the couplet "Life is unfair/Kill yourself or get over it" like a mantra. One gets the feeling that the way Black Box Recorder get over it is through their music, which can make England Made Me a suffocating listen if experienced in more than short spurts. ~ Stanton Swihart
Rolling Stone (8/19/99, p.115) - 3 1/2 stars out of 5 - "...skeletal yet dramatic orchestrations....[BBR] are totally of their time...insisting on composure and clarity..."
Spin (9/99, p.194) - 8 out of 10 - "...worthy of a true punk....it's terrorism: the kind of record you wouldn't look at twice while it boards the flight, a forgettable packet under its arm. Later: a girl singing in the wreckage."
Q (12/00, p.142) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...Wry tunes about abduction, domestic unease and dreary weekends. It's a hoot...with the delivery consistently deadpan..."
Alternative Press (9/99, pp.92-3) - 3 out of 5 - "...as deceptively anti-social as you could wish, and as deceptively melodic as well..."
Magnet (8-9/99, p.68) - "...a message of ultimate sociological pathos [for] the masses....a difficult little tirade of underspoken derision..."
CMJ (7/5/99, p.26) - "...provides the perfect soundtrack to those mornings when you're moping around the kitchen wondering what the hell went wrong the night before....comes off like the Velvet Underground giving the Cardigans music lessons in Nick Cave's basement."
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Chrysalis Records 4939072
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