Lawrence Arabia – Chant Darling

January 01, 1970

(Bella
Union)

 

www.bellaunion.com

 

Like
fellow ex-Brunettes Ryan McPhun, James Milne is a New Zealand singer-songwriter and
neo-psychedelic one-man band. Milne’s Lawrence Arabia joins McPhun’s Ruby Suns –
reviewed here at BLURT, incidentally – in dabbling in trendy Afropop, but
Milne has gleaned more of his style from late-60s acid-pop. On Arabia’s second album, Chant Darling, Milne sings lead like Ray Davies (“Like a
Fool”) and John Lennon (“The Undesirables”), and constructs
multi-tracked chorales that evoke both Abbey Road and Pet Sounds.

 

This
are familiar influences, of course, and Arabia
updates them in much the same way as the Suns (and many other current
psychedelicists): by making them vaguer. Most of these 10 songs meander,
sometimes beyond the five-minute mark, and Arabia
rarely varies the drowsy midtempo beat. A livelier rhythm and a hooky refrain
— and a vaguely Afropop guitar style — lifts “Apple Pie Bed” above
the rest of the pack.

 

The
album’s lyrics are often submerged, which is probably for the best; the audible
ones aren’t all that interesting. Like so many of his contemporaries, Milne
seems most interested in texture and mood. He’s good at both, but that’s not
going to distinguish Lawrence Arabia from many similar-sounding operations. Chant Darling was recorded while Milne
was relocating to London, a tougher town than Auckland, so maybe his
third album will have a little more bite.

 

Standout Tracks: “Apple Pie
Bed,” “Like a Fool” MARK JENKINS

 

 

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