Named after the nautical pleasure craft of Emilio Largo, Bond supervillain in Thunderball, Disco Volante sounds more like the kind of music Miss Moneypenny might be tempted to blast in the office when M wasn't around. On the surface, it's worldly-wise pop; the opening track, "146 Degrees," takes "The Theme From Exodus" chord chart and plays it as if it were 007's opening credits. It's not until the harried vocals of David Gedge--late of the Wedding Present--kick in that you realize its relationship to Swinging London is like getting a Dear John letter on a postcard of Big Ben: "You smile and say it's not your fault/Meanwhile my world's come to a halt."
Although he has a weakness for the fairer sex like 007, Gedge cannot seem to get the hang of love-'em-and-leave-'em action. How would you like to be the girl on the receiving end of this morning-after patter: "You've avoided questions that could have easily spoiled the mood/Like where does my girlfriend work and what's her favorite food"?
Like Ray Davies, Gedge is most engaging when he reports on the ordinary lives of the lovelorn. On "Après Ski" (named after a type of pullover sweater), we follow the embarrassment and disappointment of an older woman having a one-night fling with a co-worker many years her junior. Gedge is also one of the few writers of late who dare to convey the wonderment of infatuation. On "Your Charms," the album's could-be-American-chart hit if this were 1985, he yelps this most singable chorus: "I just can't think clearly, I'm in your arms and my heart is pounding/How pathetic is this sounding?" Even with Gedge's singing partner Sally Murrell adding a twee Happy Mondays feel to the proceedings, Steve Albini's production allows the guitars to cut through the barrage of French horns and woodwinds and keeps things from getting too precious. Possibly the most British-sounding Brit-pop you're likely to hear this year unless Madness reunites or Morrissey gets off his lazy arsenal.
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