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25 July, 2005

Review: Shiver (John Wesley, 2005)

The executive summary:  I like this album*.  It's not a major departure from Wes' earlier albums (thankfully), and the material isn't the most challenging (to the listener), but so what?  Wes' heartfelt delivery is well-suited to his own slightly melancholic rock and his playing is as good as always.

Those discovering Wes via his role as tour guitarist for Porcupine Tree might be interested to know that 'Shiver' was mixed by Steven Wilson and the cover artwork is by Lasse Hoile, but SW isn't credited as full 'producer' (if only because Wes did such a good job in the recording sessions that when SW arrived to work on it, little needed to be done and the entire mixing and sequencing were completed within two days!), nor as a performer. 'The King Of 17' features SW's signature 'as-if-via-telephone' vocal effect, but otherwise little of the album is reminiscent of Porcupine Tree. The opening song, 'Pretty Lives' would fit particularly well amongst the tracks on 'Chasing Monsters'; those who like 'Shiver' are recommended to try the earlier album, and vice versa.

It might sound patronising, but this is a guitarist's album. The lyrics are fine, some genuinely, well, lyrical, but there aren't enough of them! On several songs, the same lines are repeated too often, making good material seem somewhat repetitive. This does a slight disservice to the excellent and more inventive, more varying music.

I'm not going to go through all the tracks, but two brief highlights:
I can imagine 'Star' sounding particularly good live, as a showcase of Wes' writing, voice and playing.
Despite the repetitive lyrics, 'Please Come Back' is my favourite track, from the moment the excellent, melodic (actually, do I mean melodic?) guitar begins.

I first wrote this review within a week of receiving the album, but luckily I didn't get round to publishing it, as, having lived with the songs for a while, my opinions of certain aspects changed, and I've just dumped nearly half of the text! I hope the remnants aren't too disjointed.

*: not yet available from Amazon UK, it seems, but buying direct from Wes financially benefits him more than via a multinational retailer, anyway.

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