Fear Of Fours

Lamb

Mercury Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: George Agnos

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/09/2000

Lamb are a British coed duo - Lou Rhodes (probably short for Louise) and Andy Barlow, that are part of a trendy movement in music known as electronica. The most celebrated group in this field is another British band called The Chemical Brothers. The music in general can be described as follows: cool, rhythm-heavy songs with lots of electric keyboard sampling, plenty of percussion, and a dreamy style of singing. Lamb and their recent CD, Fear Of Fours, is no exception to this. However, I think they do bring more to the table than my stereotype of the genre.

The biggest strength that Lamb brings to Fear Of Fours are the arrangements. They play around with the sound by adding a string section on a few songs, a horn section on others, and in some cases both, particularly on the song "All In Your Hands."

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The arrangements are also the big star of the CD's tour-de-force called "Ear Parcel". This instrumental piece manages to combine in different sections, a big dance beat with new-age mellowness and yet somehow make it work. Add a sampling of jazz great Charlie Parker's rendition of "How High The Moon" to the mix, and you've got an impressive, imaginative piece of work.

The musicianship is better than I might have expected, and particularly outstanding is Jon Thorne playing the double bass, and it is on many tracks where his bass lines are the driving force to the music. And he is adept at changing styles to suit the changing styles of the music.

Rhodes's singing does take a bit getting used to. Her voice is not unlike recent singing sensation Macy Gray. Although not quite as funky as Gray, they share a high pitched voice that at their best moments seem to be channeling the late jazz singer Billie Holiday.

This comes through on some of the jazzier moments, as fleeting as they are. The best example is on "B Line" which definitely gets into a jazz groove in the verse, only to see it vanish on the noisy trip-hop chorus.

Now the question is how are the songs? For the most part, they are pretty good. The best ones are "Bonfire" which is a slow, haunting song with an effective arrangement of the string section. "Here" would be my choice for the single as it moves along nicely with a good beat and hook, but not without some surprises instrumentally. The bass and the percussion are especially hypnotic.

"Fly" is another satisfying, upbeat tune. When Rhodes sings "Angels are going to take me", the band makes it sound like it is really happening. On the other side, the worst song has got to be "Alien", a silly song that recalls bad, arty science fiction movies.

Electronica hasn't quite hit the mainstream in the United States, as we are going through (as of this writing) a Latin music explosion. Frankly, electronica really is the antithesis of the latin sound as it is cool and aloof compared to Latin's heat and passion. But don't be surprised if it does eventually hit these shores in a big way, after all, punk rock finally became mainstream.

While I don't think Fear Of Fours is the CD that is going to start that musical revolution, it is worth a listen for those wanting to hear a new sound and should satisfy those that are already into this music.

Rating: B

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