Review: Bleu – Four
Published on April 11th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Four, William James McAuley III’s most recent album as Bleu, was released in 2010 but has only just come to my attention, so I’m going to go ahead and review it anyway. Try and stop me.
In the main, this is excellent stuff. Opener “Singin’ in Tongues” is a delightfully frantic vocal performance with a big ol’ “la la” chorus, and although the breakneck delivery can make some of the words hard to make out, this is wholly justified by the line “I guess I lost a couple of marbles in my big hurries / So if you can’t understand me, don’t worry”. All is forgiven.
“I consider it treason to judge someone by their city of birth” he intones in “B.O.S.T.O.N.”, an Elvis Costello-like melodic instinct complementing his entertaining way with a lyric, before the OK Computer-like sophistication of “How Blue” catches you off guard with a sharp turn into the lovelorn, signalling the beginning of a very strong sequence of tracks.
“Dead in the Mornin'” is frankly startling, a brass-fuelled melding of “Wake Up, Boo!” with crazed gospel which then slows well down to incorporate ELO-like vocoder and then goes back on itself, while the arrestingly stark “In Love With My Lover” (“for the first time”, don’tcha know?) lulls you in with lines such as “She consoles me when I’m sad / She scalds me when I’m bad / She holds me when I’m weak / Sedates me when I’m mad” before suddenly transforming into a loud, blues-y stomper.
“When the Shit Hits the Fan” keeps up the excellent lyrical content (“When your mind won’t quit after 4am / You know there’s a putrid wind about to blow”), taking on the form of a sort of alternately desolate and excitable reimagining of “Lean on Me” that leads into the Barenaked-Ladies-in-a-good-way momentum-upholder “I’ll Know It When I See It”.
Only when it comes to “Evil Twin” does it start to feel like a sequence of one knowingly clever motif too many, although the discordant croon in its chorus does well to sound like a sinister Meat Loaf, while “You Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar” and “Everything is Fine” draw out proceedings on a lovely and twinkly note, setting the stage for ‘hidden’ track “My Own Personal Jesus” (not a Depeche Mode cover) cheeses out the gaff with “I wanna believe in something bigger than me / I wanna believe in something I can’t see / I wanna believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost / But I only believe in my baby”. Euch (or should we say ‘Bleuch’?)…but perhaps that’s the point.
Overall though, this is an intelligent and frequently surprising collection of pop gems from an eccentrically inclined singer/songwriter. Let’s have another one, please!
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!