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Seth Lakeman
Hearts And Minds Michael Waters , July 23rd, 2010 13:47

Lakeman's previous works to date - which nobody would know existed if it weren't for his career-catalysing rugged looks, photographed near some grass looking pensive - have been sufficiently homogeneous for the slight upping in “heaviness” on Hearts and Minds to seem like a insane stylistic departure. Admittedly, the distortion and pace of the opening track is unexpected on first listen, but it very quickly sinks in as inane; the vocals recall those of Jack Black in the farcical Tenacious D. Truth be told, if the vocal stems were removed, some of the crunchier arrangements here would intrigue. This is not the case in 'Stepping Over You', though, where banjo provided by Bellowhead superstar Benji Kirkpatrick fails to distinguish the song.

Ballad 'Spinning World' seems to be intended as the thoughtful summit of the album, but instead feels like Lakeman reaching for the next empty metaphor or next note in the distressingly familiar melody line. The lyrics overall are so middle-of-the-road that one would hope that they be run over by a lorry, but alas the album closer 'The Circle Grows' sees any hope of this shredded - rather nice double bass parts are gatecrashed by vacuous, quasi-philosophical drool. “A great belief is in the heart of every man”. Yes.

As far as the current crop of songwriters who use the violin as their key instrument go, Lakeman is overshadowed by Andrew Bird, who himself is no patch on Owen Pallett. Aside from that, Lakeman and his drippy nu-folk ilk claim to be contributing to the great tradition of ancestral song, yet in his case this merely masks a paucity of any fresh ideas. Mere fiend with a violin.