It's little surprise that Mark Robinson
ended up signing these guys -- he may have favored King Crimson
while the band fall a touch more into the Henry Cow
camp, but on Bruiser
show the same sweetly gleeful approach towards mixing prog-rock touches with post-punk roughness. Co-produced by Robinson and the redoubtable Wharton Tiers
has a definite ear towards tempo shifting, quirky fuzz melodies, and the like, along with a general polite jazz point of view familiar to anyone who knows their '70s bands like National Health
. Those who appreciate XTC
's nods towards rural styles and themes will also find something to love here, even if the connection is a general rather than specific one. Beaujon is a fine frontman, his playing and singing finding the connection between English gentility and general indie pop jangle just so, able to rock out more thoroughly when desired, but mostly creating a wistful mood throughout. His vocals tend towards the half-mumbled, offsetting the sunnier moods of the music without dragging it all down. Some songs, like "Opener," take a more direct approach when he feels the need to enunciate his thoughts more directly, revealing protective emotional barriers, but otherwise he subtly sets the tone without spelling things out. "Ebenezer" works on different levels, talking at points about "playing my guitar all day long" in the midst of a quiet declaration of love. "Ocelot (Party Mix)" may have a tongue-in-cheek title (and actual drum machines instead of bongos would have been amusing as a full dancefloor stab), but it's another amiable amble with some fun, growling vocal overdubs to boot. When the whole band kick things along, like with the opening "Spacemen" or the deliciously sung "Theme From Bob," the results are often great, containing all the energy one could want without bludgeoning anyone or anything over the head.