Dusted Reviews

The Kingsbury Manx - Bronze Age

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Kingsbury Manx

Album: Bronze Age

Label: Odessa

Review date: Aug. 14, 2013

Bronze Age follows what was arguably The Kingsbury Manx’s strongest album, 2009’s Ascenseur Ouvert!, and despite a similar approach, marks a slight decline. While the album is hardly bad, it falls short when the band attempts to move in new directions. The result is an album that feels neither “transitional,” nor quite as satisfying as their low-key but consistent previous efforts.

Part of what made Ascenseur Ouvert! so quietly remarkable was the perfect placement of details, a sense that the band had found just the right way to present frontman Bill Taylor’s mellow and lyrical songs. In contrast, the attempts at embellishment and textural variation often fall flat here: The dissonant, warbling synths on “Glass Eye” are more distracting than interesting, while the heavy reliance on more uptempo songwriting and synths leads the band away from their strengths.

Much of Bronze Age tries to move farther in the rock-oriented direction that distinguished the more electric-centered Ascenseur from its predecessor. While there are a fair share of acoustic cuts here, Taylor repeatedly tries his hand at a new wave-ish rock. Some efforts come off reasonably well, like “Future Hunter,” which is brief and energetic enough to fly by without wearing out its welcome. “In the Catacombs,” meanwhile, feels murky and leaden, with the thick synths and distorted guitars rather ill-suited for Taylor’s typically light and airy melody, while “Solely Bavaria” and “Custer’s Last” underscore the fact that he hardly has the voice to be a rock frontman. Similarly, the songwriting doesn’t keep pace with the attempts to develop or expand their sound, making these shifts in direction feel rather forced, a half-hearted disguise whose chief effect is to make us nostalgic for business as usual.

To be sure, the pastoral folk-pop of the band’s past few albums is still in evidence here. “Handsprings” brings a more country-inflected sound to a successful formula, wrapping things up with a horn-based bridge that splits the difference between The Band and Burt Bacharach. “How Things are Done” and “Ashes to Lashes” strike a very similar note, also employing a suite-like structure (the coda here is a perfectly executed throwback to the band’s brilliant debut album) while both evoking 1960s touchstones and reiterating the band’s trademark sound, a kind of woozy and bucolic drift that relies just as much on thick, palpable textures as it does on songwriting. When they hit the sweet spot as they do on these tracks, The Manx can create some heartbreakingly beautiful music. They have not by any means ceased to be a good band, but they feel less sure-footed and more scattershot here than on their last few efforts.

By Michael Cramer

Other Reviews of The Kingsbury Manx

Aztec Discipline

The Fast Rise and Fall of the South

Ascenseur Ouvert!

Read More

View all articles by Michael Cramer

Find out more about Odessa

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.