Electric Soft Parade: No Need to Be Down Hearted

Music Reviews Electric Soft Parade
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Electric Soft Parade: No Need to Be Down Hearted

Can a band hit the reset button?

In the U.K., Electric Soft Parade were once known as a group of could-have-beens. The band followed up its celebrated 2002 debut, Holes in the Wall, with the throwaway American Adventure in 2003, followed by four years of near silence. The recently released No Need to Be Down Hearted is also its first U.S. release, and, for Americans, it may be better to listen to the album as if it were a remarkably polished first record.

At its best, the album delivers buoyant pop. Tracks “Life in the Backseat,” “Cold World” and “If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know” plod forward with a crisp sound that works without being overly sweet. Sibling songwriters Alex and Tom White’s harmonies, particularly on “Misunderstanding,” provide just enough contrast and tension to suggest something dark and huge below the shiny surface.

But No Need to Be Down Hearted is also peppered with ominous, probing moments, long instrumental interludes, and “high-concept” transitions. While the ideas aren’t bad individually, the album overstays its welcome, and ends up sounding like the band was trying to achieve a distinct sound. Unfortunately, a pastiche is the result. For a group with obvious talent, the music’s influences end up being awkwardly obvious (The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips). Maybe the band waited too long before going back into the studio, and couldn’t distill all of the backlogged ideas. The result, ironically, is an album that sounds more like a promising debut than a revelation.