erasing clouds

Statuesque, Choir Above, Fire Below

reviewed by john stacey

Statuesque have been called 'the best English band you've never heard', and I would be hard-pressed to disagree. The 13 tracks on the band's first label release since 1998's Arbiters Anonymous and its follow-up Live From Lake Vostok positively fizz and crackle from the speakers as main man Stephen Manning - responsible for vocals, guitar, bass and some drums - runs the gamut of punk, new wave, power pop and garage, and even on some tracks a quaint, old-fashioned psychedelia, to produce an album that is as exciting and as vital as anything coming out of the US. Think The Strokes with a decidedly British beat but with the intensity and the intelligence of Television, seen through the English end of a telescope.

Where songwriter Manning excels is in his arrangements. For among all the ferocity there lies a tender heart beating, and many songs are beautifully decorated with piano figures and acoustic guitar touches that lend depth and colour. Statuesque have been around about 15 years, garnering a huge following in the States among those who have cottoned on to Manning's uniquely diverse - and supremely British - worldview. Anyone happening upon this CD should not base their opinion on the first couple of tracks, as the album evolves and grows with standout tracks "Boys Are Lazy, Girls Are Crazy", "Serpentine" and "Winter Was My Teacher" worth the price of admission alone.

If you are the type who is fond of Blur, Smiths, Radiohead, Coldplay et all, then Statuesque is for you. Stephen Manning's songwriting aplomb, ear for a pop hook and classic arranging skills are sufficient to elevate him to British rock's big league. He's waited long enough. Choir Above, Fire Below could be the one to do it. All he needs now is a bigger stage on which to perform.


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