Sunday, 6 April 2008

Simon Breed -The Smitten King Laments

"Why does it take a war to find ourselves bristling?" asks The Smitten King himself on opening pre-amble 'An Unhappy Fish'. The line "two spiders they were hurting in the same web/trying to freak each other out by wearing fake fly heads" is the earthier, real beginning on second, lengthier track 'I Spy The Spider', an exposition on a theme of a spider trying to be a fly only to be met with laughter and perception from the flies. The lyrics are flowery, gauche, bleak and oozing with wonderful descriptions and metaphors. Without doubt, Simon Breed has a unique way with words, creating little epithets from his ultra-observations, but not only that - his music is touching, delicate and unfeigned. His voice has an emotional gruffness in parts which is the perfect foil for his eloquent, verbose narration.Little twinkles and occasional sparks of woodwind scatter themselves unexpectedly between the prose, as it becomes clear with repeated listens that Breed's second album 'The Smitten King Laments' is an admitted self-contradiction of perfect flaws, deserved of the Nick Cave approbation. In fact, Breed and Cave share more in common than at first glance. The tone is mystic and opulent and the backdrop is one of gilt-tinged folk, making the singer/songwriter label that will inevitably attach itself to Breed off-putting and inaccurate, as not only does he offer more than just skill as a lyricist, he offers individuality, ambition and menace. 'No Wandering' comes over all yearning, Patrick Wolf-style, showing off Breed's talent for getting across what he wants to say in the most fitting way every time, with 'Finish My Book' a suitably plodding troubadour's effort to represent movement, travel and journey, calling to mind Arcade Fire's 'Rebellion (Lies)'. 'The Golem vs. The Gentle Giant' is an evocative image, and its minimalism, characterisation and once again stunning wordplay, makes it the highlight of this consistently impressive offering. Breed sets up a protagonist, places himself somewhere on the sidelines, and offers a commentary unlike any other. It's clear that the main attraction of Breed is his words, but that's not to say the music doesn't offer surroundings bereft of purpose. In fact, it's entirely the opposite as the music itself has found the perfect balance between taking a supporting role and being a foil. An absolutely superb album.

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