Do It Yourself
The sad demise of the Stone Roses last year--on the heels of the incredible Second Coming--left guitarist John Squire alone to prove that he was indeed the driving force behind that Manchester band. It was his songs and sublime playing that characterized the Roses' fateful second album. It would be natural to assume that the Seahorses would be an equally brilliant band.
Yes and no.
No, because the Roses' unique sense of rhythm is absent, and so is Ian Brown's voice. Even though the songwriting is topnotch, Do It Yourself, for the most part, sounds like a solo album. Kinda like a George Harrison solo: decent songs, great guitar licks, but somehow you wish John, Paul, and even Ringo were there, too. It also has enough Beatleisms to take some of the burden off Oasis: "Happiness is Eggshaped," "Round the Universe," and "Love Me Or Leave Me" owe a lot to the fab four via the new fab five. And speaking of which, the latter song credits Liam Gallagher as co-writer and happens to be one of the highlights here.
Yes, because "Love Is The Law" expands to reach the transcendental plateaus the Roses used to reach so often, so effortlessly. So does "Suicide Drive." You wish Squire stretched himself and the band more often instead of sticking to traditional song formulas.
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If this were a debut by a new band, rock critics would be rushing to their thesauri for flattering adjectives. As it is, this otherwise terrific album falls short of its promise. There is a whole contingent out there that will accept nothing less than magic from its maker and scrutinize the Seahorses to the point of the ridiculous. Somehow you can feel Squire's cold sweat running through the grooves.
Linoleum, on the other hand, has no such problem. As a debut, Dissent is an amalgam of healthy influences: "Marquis" kickstarts it with the metronomic pounding of Elastica. "Restriction" is enclosed in a claustrophobic Sonic Youth-type riff-o-rama. "Twisted" is imbued with Radiohead's anxiety.
It all coalesces into a moody, kaleidoscopic look into the female psyche, in particular that of singer Caroline Finch. Not bitchy, sugary, or overly cheeky, Finch sings her incisive lyrics with enough detachment to drive her points across in a coldly seductive way. Yet, Dissent lacks the kind of sex appeal that makes for unforgettable pop songs. It's too clinical--too analytical--to allow it that magic quality that will pull you back to a song after a few weeks, let alone years. As flavor of the week, though, Dissent is as good as they come.