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Saloon - This Is What We Call Progress

  by Gary Wollen

published: 20 / 2 / 2002

Saloon - This Is What We Call Progress
Label: Track And Field
Format: CD


Beautiful, sparse and evocative debut album from English group from Reading with Galaxie 500 and Velvets American underground type sound, but whose influences also remain very much British and European

First things first ! I got Saloon all wrong from the start. Mind you all, I had to go on was one paltry 7” single and a hasty live performance viewed through sceptical eyes. I did, however have the foresight to take to the gig with me a shrewd friend, who charitably recorded the event for posterity. Live, I found them almost too honed, too controlled. Then strange things started to happen as this performance wormed its way into my cynical heart and I found myself returning to it again and again. I guess what I’m trying to say is Saloon get better and better with every listen. The control and the tension that builds within every song is the hub, the focus, the fundamental essence of their art (if I may be so pretentious). That’s not to say the songs here on this album (from herein referred to as T.I.W.W.C.P for fear of R.S.I as well as laziness) conform to any rigid structures or regimented formula. Quite the opposite, this release presents a full sonic spectrum and a tangible diversity of textures. The broad range of evocative violas and assorted complimentary keyboards give an indelible depth and an inspiring range into which singer Amanda Gomez's heavenly, enchanted vocals soar through to perfectly compliment the album’s often economical production. When I listen to the album, from the first series or non-series of bleeps and blips that usher in an urgent building intro to 'Plastic Surgery' to the sublime delicacy of its final track, 'Victor Safronov' I’m reminded of a smoky basement bar in Paris in the late sixties (that’s the 1960’s, NOT me in my sixties). I don’t want to pigeonhole this album as merely lounge music, albeit a very seductive Parisian lounge music. Nor do I want to waste precious review words here on the negativity of pigeonholing when, by any rights, I ought to be expounding the virtues of this beautiful album. This is not, as I have read in certain places, Krautrock. That is too narrow a reference point and does neither Saloon nor this album any justice whatsoever. The vocal delivery, for one, is treated to a dry production, but at the same time doesn’t sound at all distant or clinical, as is so often the case with bands that garner or elicit these generic references. Sure it’s ethereal and pure and all that that implies but no attempt has been made to enhance that quality with heavy handed studio techniques and consequently Amanda’s beguiling voice in itself serves to highlight the songs. At the risk of sounding nationalistic, and believe me that’s not where either the album, or me for that matter are coming from I’d say the patois of the album is very much British/ European, although the music does hint in places towards the Galaxie 500, Velvets end of American underground. Finally on this matter, the drums certainly don’t have a leaden, heavy feel but a beautifully dry sound that is totally engaging and which positively skips along when they are called to do so. At other times they are commendably sparing as on 'Bicycle Thieves' and set the tone of the song splendidly. My current favourites are 'Across The Great Divide' with its compulsive Velvets chug, 'Le Weekend' especially the more chaotic, psychotic, discordant sections and the fantastic 'Girls Are The New Boys' which appears to hover through my head when I’m least expecting it. Although for that Sunday morning feel (no not the song) the haunting, plaintive and frankly beautiful 'Victor Safronov' fits the bill perfectly. “So this is the new world”…well, we can dream, can’t we!?

Track Listing:-
1 Plastic Surgery
2 Bicycle Thieves
3 Le Weekend
4 Make It Soft
5 Static
6 Girls Are The New Boys
7 2500 Weldon Avenue
8 Across The Great Divide
9 My Everyday Silver Is Plastic
10 Victor Safronov

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Interview (2002)
Saloon - Interview
Saloon's debut album '((This is) What We Call Progress' was released on the Track and Field label in April to critical acclaim. Adam Cresswell and Amanda Gomez from the band talk to Gary Wollen about its production, their influences and playing live


If We Meet In The Future (2003)
Disappointing second album from the critically acclaimed Saloon, which, despite several fine point moments, proves to be "a just a little too over reminiscent" of their first album '(This is) What We Call Progress'

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