Brooks' second album not only built on the promise of his first, it proved to be a truly inventive, compelling electronic album that was unfairly lost in the shuffle in the 21st century's first decade. It might be a bit much to say it's already becoming a cult classic, but Red Tape's fiercely individual feel deserves far more attention than it's been paid. A dance music album that eschews straightforward builds and releases, a rock album that sounds nothing like a rock band, an avant-garde release that is all about hooks, it's a showcase for Brooks' easy ignoring of genre limitations. More than one fan has suggested parallels to Brian Eno's work in his early solo days for a new generation, and it's a deft comparison point, both musically and vocally -- he sings as do a wide variety of guests, including Antony Hegarty, covering every vocal style from a proper-and-all-the-more-weird-for-it English gentleman to a soul singer with the voice of a breathless spectre (the near a cappella breakdown on "Restoration" is one highlight of many). The sheer musical variety on the album is its own reward as well -- while it holds together as a piece very well, nearly every song is a delightful shift away from the one before it. The hyperactive music and dryly coy speak singing of "Roxxy" contrasts with the mournful clarinet and clipped acoustic guitar on "Bedbugs." Meanwhile, "Tell Somebody About Us" makes for one of the best portrayals of isolation amid hyperactivity yet in music, the singing truly a ghost in the machine. Perhaps the most striking moment comes courtesy of a marvelous cover version -- PJ Harvey's "Man-Size," its slow-burn intensity turned into a squelching, vocally distorted monster that twists blues through an experimental techno filter like nothing else. Best song title, though, comes right before it with the almost straight-up house crunch of "Enormous Members' Club." ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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