Geoffrey Welchman,
One Band Man
(independent, 2007)

Geoffrey Welchman must be the peculiar type, or at least a bit on the eccentric side. It doesn't take halfway through the first track of One Band Man ("The Trial") to get that impression.

It's not just the lyrics (although plugging in random references and using "a line I haven't written yet" to hold a stanza fits), it's his overall musical style that's just ... odd. From his punchy instrumentation to his constantly-almost-out-of-tune vocal style, Welchman's whole vibe is a difficult pill to swallow.

After multiple listenings, I will admit that once you commit your ear to Welchman's quirkiness quality, he can and does provide an interesting time.

In case you're wondering, One Band Man is a title to be taken literally. Welchman plays all the instruments (guitars, bass, keyboards and drums) and provides multiple vocals. And in an age of over-production and layered effects "fixing it in post," this album surprisingly doesn't sound like every element was layered in separately after the fact.

Check out how well he harmonizes with himself in "Hildegard" or sample the R.E.M. feel of "Unforgiven" for instances of how well Welchman mixes his self-ingredients. "Crowd Control" weaves an intricate miasma of cultural criticism, grammar lessons, political observations and even a bit of health advice (but as a fan of Krispy Kreme, I take offense at calling them an "insidious confection" -- even if it's true). "Hard to Know" has a fun pop sensibility, especially with a rollicking electric guitar and perky percussion. "Is It Okay?" begins with barbershop-esque vocalizations and sends the song off with a Celtic outro.

Being a sophomore album, One Band Man still has some kinks and quirks to work out, especially in establishing a consistent style. The aforementioned musical vibe has groundwork for something solid, but the lyrical randomness and quasi-off-key-ness can be initially jarring, which will be difficult for first-time listeners. On the whole, One Band Man offers nearly 40 minutes of entertainment, so anyone out there with an inclination for something different should give Welchman a chance.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

5 April 2008

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