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Recording:
  The Translation  
 
Artist:
  Loretta  
 
Label:
  Benchmark  
 
Release Date:
  14.October.2003  
 
Reviewed by:
  Lawton  
         
 
Rating:
   
         
 
Review:
 

ListenÖ.no, listen carefullyÖ.hear that? Thatís the sound of a man trying valiantly to be balanced.

See that man? The perplexed looking chap over thereÖthatís the one. Thatís me.

The Translation is the debut album by indie Indianapolis outfit (God, but they must be sick of the jokes by now) Loretta. Full of fine songs that are well played, strong vocals and harmonies (although lacking that rare ingredient of being exceptional and identifiable), this album does have the distinction of being rather splendidly produced.

The five piece Loretta are three-fifths a family affair; brothers Jason, Damon and Jeremy Weidner handle the vocals with great aplomb and tight harmonies, a strength common amongst singing siblings (authorís note - donít mention the Bee GeesÖthey have no place in this review). The Weidner's also take care of the guitar, keyboards, and drums. The quintet is completed by guitarist/keyboardist Stan Muller and bassist/moogist Jim Shaffer.

The opening cut, 1000 lbs, is pleasant enough with a cacophony of guitars and percussion which meld into a strong song. Still, even as the first lyrics burst forth from my hi-fiís speakers, a niggle of familiarity started to coalesce in my mind. Setting this to one side, second song The Fire kicked off. It ended up being standard indie fare, with a pulsing bass line and a nice overlaid guitar hook, but nevertheless it was rather unsatisfying, given the press release's suggestion that this was one of three on the album to pay particular attention to.

Track three, Slow Down, was also one of the trio recommended the by Benchmark Records PR chaps and it is, indeed, more like it. Sadly though, it was at this point that the aforementioned niggling familiarity surfaced and showed it's face. As I listened to the intro of this track. "Hmm," I mused (for I have a current musing licence). "This is a bit Radiohead-ish." This feeling was only reinforced by the cut, Collide, which, with its sombre strings and piano intro and its octave-apart vocal harmonies (a la Yorke/O'Brien), could have been lifted from the OK Computer demo shelf. Thereís even the Radiohead-esque "letís play with a few effects pedals and see what we get" outro.

Adonais is, possibly, the first of two tracks that the Loretta lads should have left off the album. Messy, formless and akin to a second-rate Norwegian Euro-rock outfit, it just doesnít convince me as being from their usual repertoire. Iíll wager that they donít play this live. Stolypin Neckties (the third of the recommended triumvirate of tracks) is OK, but not one Iíd have recommended if Iíd been on the press release team. This sounds like another album filler. There are far stronger songs on the disc than this, and would have better served the whole project by being the second track to have been jettisoned.

Sinking Ships is, in my opinion, anything but. This is a fine, uplifting, fast-paced song that betrays the mood suggested by the title, and the Weidner brothers have voiced it admirably. Did no-one at Benchmark listen to this when they recommended tracks for the time-pressed reviewer? May I suggest that someone at the company does so and revises the press release? Another plus point for this track is that it doesnít sound like Radiohead. The Morning After is reminiscent of (here we go again) Radioheadís Street Spirit, although the rhythm section is a little more syncopated than in the latter song. Nicely constructed, but ultimately disappointing.

To The Knife is probably my favourite track, but (and I really am trying to sound balanced here) that may well be because it has serious overtones of Subterranean Homesick Alien from OK Computer. Indeed, I could almost fit the lyrics and the melody of the aforesaid Radiohead ditty in when I sang along. The similarity leaps out and smacks the listener between the eyes. This is a real shame, because the Weidners turn in a great vocal performance on this song, even if bits of it sound like Thom Yorkeís upper registers. In the meantime, they, Muller, and Shaffer play the backing superbly. If only they hadnít gone for the OK Computer-squeeze-down-the-EQ behaviour at the end, they might just have got away with it. My House and Foe continue this theme. They are great songs, but that have far too many nods in the direction of those wacky, zany, Oxford lads.

Oddly, where Loretta seem to crash land into their own sound is on the hidden, bonus track which is an acoustic version (with some assured violin backing) of The Fire. Whilst Iím not suggesting that they should stay in this vein, the track does allow us to hear a more original slant from the band. Even the sparsely used electronic dickering sounds fresh and innovative.

This has been a hard review to write. I rather like The Translation (with the exception of two tracks) and Loretta have talent, bags of it. I also rather like Radiohead, and that is whatís wrong here. Iíve started a regime of listening to the material first and then reading the press releases. Benchmarkís own PR people insist that at least one track "could have come straight off The Bends." Indeed. And a little more close inspection would have revealed some more striking similarities so that I felt somewhat vindicated reading the words.

OK (computer), so what do we tell the good people reading this review? Is it worth buying? Yes, definitely. Will it add to the diversity of your music collection? If you own anything by Radiohead or Travis, then no. If you think you should own music like Radiohead, but have been frightened off by the music press, then The Translation will give you an idea of the genre.

Personally, I hope Loretta get a chance for a second album. The evidence here is that they could and should go far, so long as they attempt to steer towards their own niche.

 
         
 
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