Music Reviews
Shades of Black

Eastern Lane Shades of Black

(Rough Trade) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Shed Seven. Remember them? Britpop stragglers, the band incredibly are still around, long after their expiry date. Best known for being a group on the brink of the great things, and (some might say fairly) never quite making the big league. The reason was undoubtedly Rick Witter's vocals, a voice that, whilst passable, was always difficult to warm to.

Eastern Lane. They have nothing musically in common with Shed Seven, but a similarly debilitating factor. As much as this release initially intrigued me, and grew on me to some extent, I have never truly been able to enjoy listening to the record. The reason; like poor old Rick, Eastern Lane's debut release, Shades of Black, is fatally crippled by an incredibly annoying vocal, provided by a man referred to only as 'Derek'. That said, I shall try not to mention it again. As much as an almost unbearable vocal is a severe point, there are ideas (and problems) under the whine that are worth investigating.

The record begins with Dead July, a fairly generic thrash through a typically indie-lite anthem. Nothing spectacular but, like second track Vena Cava, the song features beautiful lyrics. One suspects that lines such as "Innocene left and the diary was born" and "I am choosing my face / I am biding my time" are keeping our beloved vocalist in a job.

The record suffers also from a startling lack of direction. The promotional write-up proudly boasts of influences as far and wide as Pajo, The Pixies, Johnny Cash and Love, though it obviously never occurred to Eastern Lane that they should perhaps stick with one direction, and maybe, y'know, have an original idea or two? The record stumbles from country songs, to weak attempts at punk, via more typical, and well worn indie paths. The album highlight for me is 21, a 47 second piano interlude. While neither particularly exciting nor inspiring, it is, however, an instrumental.

Eastern Lane are hard to recommend. There is little to separate them from any other band, except for perhaps the uncanny ability to sound like every other band at some point during the album. If Derek is indeed the lyricist, he is not only their one saving grace, but also the one element that will sink them. Even with verse as fine as this, a tolerable voice is necessary. Just as Shed Seven, currently filling Clearout bins at a record shop near you, will tell you.