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Fading Parade Barnaby Smith , March 8th, 2011 06:49

Jason Quever, the axis around which all things Papercuts revolves, is a problematic talent. As a producer, he is something of a local hero around Northern Californian parts; records by Cass McCombs, Beach House, Port O'Brien and Vetiver wouldn't sound the same were it not for the exquisite touch of Quever at the controls, who seems to hear the world through a filter of shimmering reverb.

His own work, however, is a mixed bag. This is his fourth solo record and the follow up to what remains his high watermark, 2009's You Can Have What You Want, which was concise in both its life-affirming lyrical message and its melodic attractiveness – 'Future Primitive' being the finest Papercuts song yet recorded. Before that album, Quever's solo work was meandering and somewhat insubstantial, his arrangements and instrumentation taking centre stage at the exclusion of good songs. Fading Parade, his first album on Sub Pop, seems to be a return to that grey area; it all feels like an ornate and elaborate frame without a painting inside it.

Quever's rich sensibility hasn't really changed – Fading Parade is full of organs, atmospheric guitar lines that err towards dream pop and piano and drums that, on this LP, move a little away from The Zombies or The Beach Boys and towards Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. The loveliness of the album's sound is indisputable, particularly on 'Wait Til I'm Dead' and 'The Messenger'.

It is, however, a little one-paced. Aside from 'Do What You Will', a track with a big emotive chorus and the LP's first single, the album plods along in a woozy state of somnolence without variety of style or feeling. There is nothing wrong with this in itself – many of the bands Quever produced have made repetition a high artform – but here there is no urgency or building up of energy to make that repetition meaningful. Songs like 'I'll See You Later, I Guess' and 'White Are The Waves' come and go in a haze of luscious instrumentation but are absolutely unwilling to stray from the album's pre-ordained path. It would be a little hard to call Fading Parade boring, but much of it is perfect background music, which is not exactly a forceful recommendation.

That said, hints of what Papercuts achieved on You Can Have What You Want are hidden amid the fog. Opener 'Do You Really Wanna Know' is a chirpy and well-crafted slice of unspectacular but satisfying pop, 'Winter Daze' is one song that does offer palpable changes of direction, beginning with Vetiver-style acoustic picking before launching into a more familiar slow orchestral ballad. The best is left for last, meanwhile, with closer 'Charades' a more imaginative melodic statement, reminiscent of Devendra Banhart at his poppy best, albeit a little quieter.

Quever's solo work is inconsistent but it does have patches of excellence, and he is not exactly the first accomplished producer whose own music sometimes comes up a little short compared to the artists he records - Jack Nitzsche comes immediately to mind. And though this album lacks a degree of soul, its polish makes it a pleasant enough spin.

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