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June 2, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Lawrence Arabia—Chant Darling


Lawrence Arabia a.k.a. James Milne has a musical résumé to envy. He’s been a songwriter and bassist with the Auckland twee pop band The Brunettes, been a member of The Reduction Agents (who wrote that ridiculously catchy song ‘80s Celebration’), and has also played bass for and toured with, Okkervil River.

With such a line-up you would expect nothing short of brilliant, and brilliant it is. The thing that makes Chant Darling so is not just the lush layers of vocal harmonies and the exquisitely crafted songs, but the underlying dry wit and humour of his lyrics. He seems to make fun of his situation, but at the same time he is lamenting for love lost. Therefore, the second album under his solo pseudonym, Chant Darling succeeds in my eyes and is even better recorded and more cohesive than his self-titled debut.

Chant Darling has all the instrumentation you would expect from an ex-Lil Chiefer, including trumpet and xylophone. The stand-out single of the album, ‘Apple Pie Bed’ is a sugary sweet song about an all-consuming love. It possesses a certain familiarity about it, that of a classic pop song. The guitar, twangy and treble fuelled, sounds like it has been lifted directly from an in-descript 60s pop hit, and likewise the backing vocals. The first track of the album, ‘Look Like a Fool’ is written about something we all can relate to—getting too drunk and trying desperately to get the attention of someone you probably shouldn’t be.

“I’m on the ground girl, I’m thrashing round it’s easy to see, what this display is called, to show what you mean to me.”

Another track that deserves a mention is the ‘Beautiful Young Crew’, whose lyrics pay homage to all scensters out there:

“They love each other. But they hate each other. They’re afraid of each other, because they want to screw each other.”

‘Dream Teacher’ the final track on the album is an a cappella song about school-boy crush on his teacher. This song makes wonderful use of Milne’s high-octave vocals and showcases the multiple layers of backing vocals.

While I am a self-confessed fan of Lawrence Arabia (he can do no wrong in my eyes), there are still critiques that can be made. Chant Darling is an easy album, there is nothing unexpected. The songs are timeless, but timeless doesn’t necessarily mean definitive of a generation. He cites many well-referenced bands, such as The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, but makes it his own with his lyrics. Chant Darling is like a well-restored villa—classic, aesthetically appealing, tasteful, and has an undeniable air of class—well worth a listen, the boy can write a good melody.

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