Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Pale Fountains "…From Across the Kitchen Table" (1985)

The Paley's first release, "Pacific Street," received critical acclaim upon its initial release. But despite their best efforts (and a healthy financial push from their label, Virgin), the album stalled in the UK album charts and none of the singles charted.

"…From Across the Kitchen Table", band’s second and final effort for Virgin is a rather difficult album to dissect. For starters, it shares very little in common with its predecessor. Andy Diagram's trumpet, which had been prominent on "Pacific Street", is only featured on a handful of cuts. And further more, there's a lot less orchestral work on this album. So while the group doesn’t sound as “cabaret” (a tag which the group regularly dismissed) they ultimately they don’t sound as distinct as they once did. In a sea of synthpop, post-punk, and hip-hop, the Paleys were proudly gauche.

Production wise, however, "From Across the Kitchen Table" is a much stronger than the group's early singles and debut album. Fellow Liverpudlian Ian Broudie is responsible for adding some much needed "oomph" in the band's sound. The guitars are lot more wiry and erratic, giving several tracks, such as "Stole the Love" and "Jean's Not Happening" a more confident "rock" dynamic. The drums are much more prominent in the mix and sound a lot punchier." The result is an album that sounds strong and confident, even when the lyrics are unfocused and the sequencing is questionable.(Broudie also managed to reign in Echo & The Bunnymen's inconsistencies on 1983's "Porcupines").

"From Across the Kitchen Table" was, at best, a transition album. We're really left to wonder “What this band could've done had they held it together?” Were they on their way to establishing their own eclectic brand of pop music? But thanks to drug abuse, disagreements with the label and a continuing lack of commercial success, the Pale Fountains eventually disbanded. Bassist Chris McCaffery died of a brain aneurysm in 1986 and brothers Mick and John Head went on to form Shack, and at one time were part of Arthur Lee's touring band.

"Jean's Not Happening"

"...From Across the Kitchen Table"

Postscript: In February of 2008, the Pale Fountains reunited for a series of well-received concerts in Liverpool and London.

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