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Picturebox - Escapes

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 3 / 11 / 2018

Picturebox - Escapes
Label: Gare du Nord Records
Format: CD


Unpredictable and psychedelic-influenced latest album from Canterbury-based cult band Picturebox

Reviews of Picturebox will often mention Canterbury’s "musical heritage", giving the vague impression of a long legacy of successful and inter-connected bands. While it is true that Soft Machine came from Canterbury, I have to be honest and say I hardly think that the qualifies the city to anything more than a footnote in the history of rock. I am both a regular visitor to the City and a regular gig goer. But I have never done both at the same time. Canterbury has a noteworthy cathedral and hosts the only first class cricket ground in England with a tree on the pitch. But, let’s be honest, whatever music scene it does have is strictly on the margins. And that is where Picturebox deliberately place themselves. The plaything of Robert Halcrow, they are a monument to one man’s interpretation of classic English psychedelia – and ‘Escapes’ finds him at his most unpredictable and quirky. But also his most loveable. Every now and again, Halcrow will do an excellent impression of someone who hasn’t got a clue what he doing. When he poses as a barely-competent purveyor of lo-fi jingle jangle, you do genuinely believe that he has no idea how to play his instruments or sing in tune. But, thirty seconds later, you find multi-layered melodies and intricate arrangements. The ‘Escapes’ of the title are barely anything of the sort. The action barely leaves Kent – instead these are songs about cab rides, train journeys, lost bus passes and taking the Vicar’s dog for a walk. But this album is still an adventure, as genres jumple on top of each other and Halcrow’s carefully guided tour of English pop music goes through the gears. It all reaches a peak on ‘Secret Escapes’, which starts out sounding like Television Personalities at their simplest, before jumping forward two decades to sound like Supergrass within 45 seconds, and by the end there are guitar sounds Kevin Shields will be happy with. It’s a great ride. Picturebox deserve to make the jump from small band to cult band, and this could be the album that does it for them.

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