Music

Mr. Wright: Hello Is Anyone Out There

Patrick Schabe

Mr. Wright

Hello Is Anyone Out There

Label: Le Grand Magistery
US Release Date: 2001-07-31
Amazon
iTunes

Another release from Le Grand Magistery in the cool, stylistically abundant pop vein. Another release from Kevin Wright, whose Mr. Wright has put out two previous albums of this same sound. On that note, it might be difficult to find anything else to say about the album.

But that would be cop out on my part. There's really a lush, thick quality to the quiet music here that is worthy of attention and some verbiage. Acoustic lounge electronica. Chamber pop. Post-New Romantic, goth tinged, subdued Nick Cave meets Nick Drake. It's simply difficult to find the right words. This is due in part to the minimalist qualities that permeate this album. They are in direct contradiction to the soupy blends of sounds that work their way beneath the surface of these tracks, emerging only briefly for the necessary hook, and then diving back down once more to create the underlying ambience. I hate to rule by comparison, but the twee darlings Belle and Sebastian come to mind a bit while listening to this disc. However, although I doubt B&S have ever been described as being particularly upbeat, this is like Belle and Sebastian on a heavy dose of laudanum.

This dirge-like quality has less to do with the music, which at moments ("Coming Home") has nearly cheerful qualities, than it does with Wright's voice. Not only does Wright almost exclusively adopt long, deep, drawn-out notes but he sings at an interminable pacing that is infuriating at times. Imagine Roger Waters singing the opening to "Us and Them" for an entire album's worth of songs. Take "Ocean Boulevard" for example: "Many years from / (beat, beat, beat, beat) / This time we live in / (beat, beat, beat, beat) . . ." At times you just want to yell, "Spit it out, you bastard!" Which is a shame, because Wright's voice is enticing enough in its gothy, dramatic depths that it could be put to some good use. But having to wait a full measure between each line of a verse or a chorus just makes the otherwise passable lyrics seem like torture. We won't even discuss the painful moments that his voice croaks like a pubescent male on "Missing You Still" and "Voyage".

As thematic elements go, the songs on this album fit the title. Wistful, lonely, abandoned emotions drip from each track. Ocean imagery is returned to enough times to make an emo band blush, but there's nothing here to indicate that this is some kind of concept album. There's no sense of camp or high drama like you might get out Morrissey. Kevin Wright is simply maudlin, and that's what he sings about.

After all that, it might seem like I don't like this album. In fact, I don't really want to. But there's something insanely compelling about the musical compositions. As stated earlier, there's the occasional burst of instrumentation to complete some killer hooks, particularly the brief electric piano flourish in "Ocean Boulevard". But there are also the hushed repetitions. A particular chord progression is played with a looping insistence. A certain refrain drones on an on. A guitar is plucked at one unwavering note per beat for an entire song's length. A drum fills the low end with an unchanging echo. Individually, these things would be completely irritating, but Wright actually builds these songs, and the somnambulistic pacing actually allows each element to be appreciated as part of a composition. On the one hand, these songs quickly lose your direct attention, but as soon as your mind wanders, a particular element changes or surfaces just enough to draw your notice and reel you back in.

Although I don't have a particular problem with Wright's ability as a writer of lyrics, the overwhelming strength of the music paired with the painful dullness of the singing makes the album something difficult to pick up with anticipation. I'd hate to suggest that Wright abandon the microphone for a purely instrumental direction, but at the very least he should think about making Mr. Wright a collaborative effort and hiring himself a singer. There's a lot to marvel at in Hello Is Anyone Out There, but it's tempered by how much there is to cringe at as well.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image