Album number four from The Hazey Janes finds them reunited with the production team behind debut Hotel Radio - Paco Loco and John Agnello. As an antidote to the hectic worldwide touring the band has undertaken since the release of 2011 album The Winter That Was they took themselves off to the south west of Spain to make these recordings.
Opening track 'Iwan' brought both Marillion and Tony Christie to mind for me, the former for the bulk of the musical element and the latter for the crooneresque vocals. By the time the guitar solo arrives near the three minute mark you might be wondering if they're setting themselves up to be the new Texas. Thankfully track two 'The Fathom Line' has a bit more oomph about it and is far more interesting in terms of chord changes, solos & what have you.
'In Shadows Under Trees' swaps the previous soft rock for competent country playing. Soaring, heart-tugging vocal lines are backed by lap steel plenty of complimentary backing oohs and aahs. Emotionally though, like the musical pace of the work up to this point, things don't get beyond second gear.
When the band veer into Teenage Fanclub-like territory on 'If Ever There Is Gladness' things start to look up as the tune nips along and the mildly melancholic note is pitched just right to get through that chink in your emotional armour. 'The Genesis' takes a more muscular, power pop line but by now the near total lack of hooks throughout the album is beginning to really tell. Sure they can comfortably write songs in a number of styles (add mild psychedelia with '(I'm) Telescoping') but that starts to smack of bandwaggoning a la The Soup Dragons.
Hearing any of the few better tracks on the album in isolation wouldn't adequately prepare you for the overall rather plodding and bland fare that makes up the bulk of it. Safe is I think the word I'm after as polished doesn't necessarily mean something's bad or unadventurous. I've unfortunately no access to my review of The Winter That Was but, whilst I've not listened to it in the intervening years, I'm pretty sure it was an album that promised more in terms of future works than has been delivered.