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The Minders - It's a Bright and Guilty World

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Artist: The Minders

Album: It's a Bright and Guilty World

Label: Future Farmer

Review date: Jul. 26, 2006

Artists who are still singing about selling out typically have not, in reality, cashed in just yet. So it should come as no surprise that the eccentric, non-mainstream, perennially-under-the radar Minders are obsessed with the crass commerciality, the essential falseness of making pop music. A brief, Byrds-ish strummed and harmonized intro titled "There Goes My Formula," ends with the wistful observation that "all of my passions / are fashioned and styled," and the superbly jaunty Beatles-pop "Don't You Stop" slips self-flagellation into its buoyant texture with the verse, "It's a bright and guilty world we live in / And every single smile you see has got to be kidding/the whole damn jungle is up for sale / and nothing's left for giving away." Yes, the Minders turn to more typical baroque pop topics -- frustrated love, existential angst and unexpected joy -- in the songs that follow, but you have the sense that Martyn Leaper has mixed feelings about the careful construction, the skill, that makes his songs so enjoyable.

This sort of elegant, wistful, self-deprecating pop brings to mind a whole stringful of British songwriters -- Ray Davies, Syd Barrett, Robyn Hitchcock, and mostly the Kinks. There's a "Waterloo Sunset"-ish mix of joy and melancholy in "Savour All these Days," a whispery delicacy that is only reinforced by bittersweet washes of strings. And "Crest of the Hill," with its staccato piano and subtle melodic shifts, precisely balances vulnerability and craft.

The whole disc is breezily pleasant, a combination of spare ballads and orchestrated rock ditties. It seems nice but inconsequential, the kind of thing you'll hardly remember when it stops. Funny, though, only a few plays in, songs like "Accidental Joy" and "Same Time, Same Place," had taken up permanent residence in my inner ear, their curving melodies playing and replaying with sunny insouciance. "Jenny", which admittedly got a head start because of the name, is just as casually riveting, in its froth of jangling guitars, its lilting, major-to-minor shifting melody.

Like the Green Pajamas, Kelley Stoltz and the Minus Five, the Minders seem to be very good at something no one has much use for anymore -- crafting careful, tuneful pop songs that insinuate their way into your consciousness before you think they've even registered. If it were 1965, it might make them rich, but for now, the chances of selling out even a little seem remote.

By Jennifer Kelly

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