[14 July 2010]
Fans of early Elvis Costello would do well to check out the work of Stephen Manning, the London-based singer/songwriter who records jangly, bedroom pop under the name Statuesque. Manning’s own nasal vocal delivery is a bit warmer and less pronounced than Costello’s, and it’s more vulnerable to blending in to the not quite lo-fi, but notably homemade, audio murk of crunchy guitars and boxy drum beats that mark these recordings. However, he does possess Costello’s knack for wrapping witty wordplay (“short of marrying a mirror / your intent could not be clearer”, goes one particularly Costelloian lyrical barb) around spiky hooks and occasionally intricate melodies. Reader, I Curried Him doesn’t quite capture Manning at his very best. Previous albums like 2002’s deceptively titled, non-concert recording Live From Lake Vostok and 2004’sChoir Above Fire Below boast sharper songs and somewhat higher hit-to-miss ratios, but for every fumble here (like the muddled plod of “Jagged Spires”) you’ll find a few gems, such as in the jaunty melody of “Low Expectations”, the irresistibly springy guitar riff of “Oranges and Leathers” or chirpy instrumental break of “Egg Race”. Even if the stabs at an expansive lushness on ambitious tracks like “The Jaws Of Ill Repute” and “The Rain In Bahrain” continue to reveal Manning’s sonic limitations, melodically, he appears to have very few.