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Michael Carpenter - Up Close

  by Laura Branch

published: 21 / 2 / 2002



Michael Carpenter - Up Close
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD

intro

"Classic " power pop release from under-rated Australian multi-instrumentalist Michael Carpenter that compiles together tracks from his previous two albums, Hopefulness' and 'Baby' , but which also features several new songs


This review could so easily be one of the shortest ever; Brilliant. Power Pop. Buy It. But I guess that is not enough, not for an album so full of such timeless, melodic powerful sounds as this. Michael Carpenter’s third album is released on Laughing Outlaw Records, who claim to be Australia’s Premier Power Pop and Alternative Country Label. There is no argument there, as this falls neatly into the power pop genre. Strictly speaking, it’s not Carpenter’s third album but a compilation of some of the tracks from his previous two albums, 'Hopefulness' and 'Baby' which were released in the USA on the Not Lame label. But if you are smart enough to already own both of those, this is still worth purchasing as Laughing Outlaw have added six (although we will return to that later) extra tracks which are worth the price of this album on their own. The problem with a lot of so-called power pop records is that they lack the melodies that define the classic power pop sound. There is no such problem, however, with this release. Full of harmonies, chiming guitars and a bright production, these songs really highlight Michael’s knack of writing irresistible melodies. This is one of those records which make you feel good to be alive even if it is pouring down with rain on a boring Sunday. It is also released at a perfect time of year; just in time for summer. It is strange that Michael is not more widely known and respected, and we can only hope that this release will go some way to changing that. Apart from producing and engineering every track on this album, Michael is also a multi-instrumentalist and plays the drums, bass, keyboards and guitars on it. To start with the bonus tracks, although only six are listed on the sleeve, there are actually eight. After the ‘proper’ album ends with track 12 we get Michael singing an introduction to the bonus tracks. All the vocals on this track are sung by Michael and even though it was probably put in as a light hearted joke by him, it still stands head and shoulders above most of the other songs I’ve heard lately masquerading as power pop. Far from being a throwaway interlude I’m sure that Brian Wilson would be proud of these harmonies. The other uncredited track is a version of ‘Thinking About You’ which appears in a different form as track 3 on the album. The bonus version is an acoustic version with the harmonies more to the fore in the chorus. It just highlights how Michael’s songs can be put in a different setting and still sound good. Kicking off the album with ‘Kailee Ann’, from the 'Hopefulness' album, Michael plays all the instruments and his only accompaniment is from Lachlan Williams and Paul Hakim on backing vocals. It’s a perfect introduction to Michael’s music. To those not familiar with the man’s talents, doubt would probably set in as to whether this standard can be kept up over the next 11 tracks but it does and with ease. To prove it, the less upbeat, but no less exhilarating,’Love Is Like…’, from the 'Baby' album is another power pop classic. That’s not a word which should be used lightly, but classic could be used to describe every song here. Comparisons have been made to the classic ‘B’ groups of the sixties, the Beatles, Beach Boys and the Byrds, and also to newer bands like The Posies and Teenage Fanclub. Fair enough, I guess, but even a Beatles compilation couldn’t get near this collection. Traces of all those bands can be found here but Michael is no clone. His harmonies would move anyone who loves the Beach Boys and the use of 12 string guitars brings to mind the Byrds, but remember that for the most part Michael is playing, singing, producing and engineering all of this on his own with the exception of some backing vocals (which, incidentally, are also outstanding) and some guitar parts. With the exception of Brian Wilson (and can he play guitar like Michael?), is any single musician from any of the bands Michael is compared too capable of this? I doubt it. Even the ballads like, ‘You Won’t See’, ‘Missing You Now’ and ‘She Dreams’, are so melodic, full of hooks and ride along on chiming guitars they also conjure up that happy, summery feeling. As said earlier, the bonus tracks don’t disappoint and are all up to the standard set by the songs on Michael’s previous albums. The worry was that maybe the best of those two albums were used to form the main body of this release and the bonus tracks, as is so often the case, were merely songs that were not felt good enough to make it onto an album in the first place and so would not be up to scratch. No worries, in fact, one wonders how the Hell the outstanding ballad, ‘You Were The One’, could remain unreleased until now. The only track not self-composed here is Gene Clark’s ‘That’s Alright By Me’, which appeared on the former Byrds' vocalist's tribute album ‘Full Circle’. Maybe that is where the best comparison can be made, the songs of Michael Carpenter are easily as good as those composed by this under-rated Byrd member. As it was Clark who wrote all of that band’s best early material that is no small commendation, believe me. So to finish as I started, if you have just a passing interest in power pop then buy this and be totally converted. If power pop is already your main thing then you’ll have this already, right?



Track Listing:-
1 Kailee Ann
2 Love Is Like...
3 Thinking About You
4 Hopefulness
5 Love So Strong
6 Changes
7 All I Want
8 You Won't See
9 She Dreams
10 Believes Again
11 Is This Love I'm Feeling
12 Missing You Now
13 In On Me
14 King's Highway
15 You Were The One
16 Love Is Like...(Version 2)
17 That's Alright By Me
18 It's Over


Label Links:-
http://www.laughingoutlaw.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/laughingoutlawrecordsandmanagement
https://laughingoutlaw.bandcamp.com/



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Redemption #39 (2009)
Stunning first album of original material in five years from Australian producer and king of power pop, Michael Carpenter
Rolling Ball (2004)
Baby (2001)


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