# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Almost Charlie - The Plural of Yes

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 7 / 7 / 2009

Almost Charlie - The Plural of Yes
Label: Words On Music
Format: CD


Superb second album from lush-sounding Berlin/New York-based collaboration Almost Charlie, who draw strong comparisions with Prefab Sprout

Almost Charlie are so named because they are, almost, Charlie’s band. But not. He might write all the lyrics, but he doesn’t play a note on the record, wasn’t there when it was recorded and hasn’t even met his bandmates. While Charlie Mason is beavering away over his laptop in New York City, the rest of Almost Charlie are in Berlin, recording albums and playing gigs. This neat division of labour hardly compares as a narrative with Johnny Marr turning up announced at Morrissey’s door, but it has now been in operation since 2003, leading to this second album. And it seems to be working well. And yet, nice as these lyrics are (I especially like the shameless geekery of songs about Frankenstein and superman, which offsets the disarmingly matter-of-fact details in the love songs), it is the music recorded in Berlin which is the real story here. After Prefab Sprout stopped being popular, they began writing albums like this. Deftly arranged, tuneful, charming and unobtrusive - this album is all those things, and if it doesn’t quite feature anything as devilishly catchy as ‘Whoever You Are’ (my favourite Prefab Sprout song), then it isn’t ever too far away either. In musical times like these, when every twenty year old forming a band seems to have spent their lifetime listening to boring old Joy Division, its lovely to hear someone once again imitating the Beatles to a decent extent. And, even better, they take the good bits - the tunes, the variety, the balanced production - without stealing the melodies or chords wholesale. The album is at its very best when it is at its most Beatles-esque. ‘The World Is Full of Supermen’ could have jumped straight off 'Rubber Soul', with Dirk Homuth doing quite a turn as John Lennon, and sitars taking us all the way to Norwegian Wood. There’s something sinister hidden away in the beautiful ‘Formerly Smiling Jack’, giving it a similar happy/sad feel to Lennon’s tribute to his mother, ‘Julia’. Here, a string section does for Almost Charlie what George Martin often did for John and Paul, lending a stately grace to an already impressive song. At other times, the combination of lush strings, pianos and acoustic guitar evokes the exceptionally (and criminally underrated) second album from Kings of Convenience, especially the slyly catchy ‘Love Condensed’, which can’t quite decide if it is an upbeat pop song or a sad little ballad, ending up swinging prettily between the two. Now, let’s not get carried away here. This band are not going to feature in critical lists of bands who changed music, and these songs are probably not going to become hits. No reviewer will need to write the word innovative. But, these are only flaws if you want them to be. This is a superb album, and I shall be playing it on a regular basis, at least until September when that Prefab Sprout album arrives, and probably far beyond that.

Track Listing:-
1 Everyone Deserves to Love
2 Love Condensed
3 Leaving Is Easy
4 Beyond and Above
5 The Monster and Frankenstein
6 So Far and Yet So Near
7 In Another Life
8 For the Both of Us
9 The World Is Full of Supermen
10 Will You Still Be Here
11 Empty Heart
12 Formerly Smilin' Jack
13 The Plural of Yes

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