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Michael Carpenter And Kings - Kings Rd Works

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 14 / 2 / 2003

Michael Carpenter And Kings - Kings Rd Works
Label: Select Label
Format: CD


Excellent Byrds, Beatles and Costello-influenced power pop from always versatile Australian singer-songwriter and producer, Michael Carpenter

This is Michael Carpenter’s first album with his touring band, King’s Road. Don’t be mislead by that, however, maybe thinking that major changes are ahead. In spite of Carpenter’s sleeve notes claiming that he was tiring of playing ‘a game of pick the reference’ on his records and wanting to make a record sounding like Michael Carpenter rather than an amalgam of his influences, this is still very much business as usual. I’d be the first to admit that The Byrds, The Beatles and Costello and all the usual power-pop influences have always been evident in Carpenter’s albums. The difference, however, has always been that Carpenter, without a doubt, made a better job of it than any other artist or band walking that power-pop highway. I’ve always felt that his records sounded more like Michael Carpenter than the sum of his influences anyway. He always injected enough of his own identity into his songs to make them ‘his own’ rather than just mere copies of what has gone before. So, if last year’s Laughing Outlaw compilation, ‘Up Close’, did it for you then 'Kings Road Works' should be at the top of your wants list right now. If you loved that collection you will miss more of the same if you let this album slip by. Kicking off the album with ‘Nothing In The World’ one might be forgiven for thinking that Michael Carpenter had, in fact, taken a slightly new direction with his band. Maybe this is because the opening track is one of two songs he co-wrote with the band. It’s a harder-edged effort than most of his previous work and does come as a bit of a surprise. The gorgeous Carpenter melody is present and correct though as are the harmonies. One might wonder at this stage, listening to the album for the first time, if this slightly new rootsy direction would be carried on throughout the whole album. Not that it would have been a bad thing if all the following 10 tracks were in this mould. The following track, ‘King’s Road’, however, almost finds us back in usual Michael Carpenter territory. A typical, up-beat power pop tune with the band obviously enjoying the music they are making as a unit. Lashings of mandolin and mando guitar from the master transferring the feel good factor across to the listener. On track 3, ‘The One For Me’, we are treated to what Carpenter excels at. It’s one of the power-pop ballads that have become his trademark. A vocal that is devoid of any influence, it’s pure Carpenter, a melody that is impossible to forget after just one play and which features superb Byrdsian guitar. Everything, in fact, which makes Carpenter’s work so special. Now a strange thing has happened, I’m listening to this album for possibly the 10th time while writing this review. Rather than scrap all of the above and start again I’m going to have to admit that maybe I was too hasty in saying that this album is not a departure from Carpenter’s previous work. I’ll stand by my view that this is not a major shift from his previous albums but there is definitely something different about this collection. It’s obviously a more subtle change than I was expecting after reading the sleeve notes as it has taken me a number of plays to realise it (or it could be me just being slow!) but there is more of a ‘band sound’ to this album. There has always, due to the very nature of the power-pop songs he produces, been a sense of joy to Carpenter’s work. It’s uplifting, even the ballads.There is, however, definitely something more that the band brings to these songs, especially on the 2 songs the band co-wrote with Carpenter. Going by the already mentioned ‘Nothing In The World’ and the second collaboration, ‘You’re So Alone’, it’s no bad thing. This harder edge is apparent on this track as well. The album really does sound like a group effort, which does add a new dimension to Carpenter’s work. I was hoping that Carpenter was not going to stray too far from the sound of his previous albums. He is amongst the best when it comes to this power-pop thing, and he hasn’t. He has just added another aspect to his sound. A smart move. A stand out track? In these cold, snowy times it has to be ‘Summertime’, shining out with the promise of better, warmer days to come, Carpenter’s warm vocals, those harmonies and that jangly guitar. Classic Carpenter. ‘Up Close’ was in many end of year ‘top ten lists’ mine included. We are not 3 months into this year and I suspect that this album has already been entered onto a good few lists for possible inclusion in next December’s charts.

Track Listing:-
1 Nothing In The World
2 King's Rd
3 The One For Me
4 Here It Comes
5 Summertime
6 Home Again
7 Can't Be All You Need
8 No Way Out
9 Holiday
10 You're S Alone
11 Walk On

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