Saint Motel - Voyeur Album Review

Saint Motel Voyeur Album

Review of Voyeur Album by Saint Motel

LA based quartet Saint Motel's debut Voyeur is an assured and ambitious effort. The record's few failings can be chalked up to its nature as an opening statement from a band that certainly promises much in the future. It's somewhat surprising that the four members met at a Californian film school, as they've adopted a medium to express their ideas, which on record at least, is lacking in the visual flair of their academic training. Yet as the title suggests there's certainly more to Voyeur than meets the eye on first inspection.

The other surprising thing here is that for all intents and purposes Voyeur is a concept album. It's a term that could set alarm bells ringing for some listeners, but the eventual narrative pay off makes the loose thread of one sided love and obsession worth following. Musically the album takes you on a journey too. It opens with the carnival like bustle of 'Feed Me Now', complete with brass section and cascading piano. However as Voyeur reaches its more intense closing stages the focus shifts to big guitar riffs as found on tracks like 'Stories'. Along the way there's the incessantly catchy single 'Benny Goodman'. The homage to the king of swing uses a trumpet sample to provide the backbone to a song that sounds like a strange transatlantic cousin to the type of pop The Beautiful South would produce.

Vocally AJ Jackson's default setting seems to be falsetto, but he does try to stretch himself throughout, to provide some sense of urgency and menace to the voyeuristic protagonist that lurks within the songs. It's that character that elevates the material here from being just another slice of indie pop. Despite the impressive array of instruments, harmonies, and occasional electronic influence, Voyeur is a guitar record that stands up alongside its contemporaries, but doesn't musically stand out.

'Puzzle Pieces' is a perfect example of lyrics that illustrate the central characters infatuation, while imprinting themselves on the back of your eyelids. "Your face is canvas and your body serves as the easel", Jackson sings at one point. The visual sensibilities of his film studies have obviously bled through to his writing, painting a vivid portrait of both the narrator and the object of his affections throughout. The same song also foreshadows later events when Jackson states, "When you look at me, its like a gun goes off deep inside of me, I can hardly move, I can barely breathe". Later on during 'Honest Feedback', he even adopts a cinematic trick to break the fourth wall and address the listener directly with the quip, "How was this song? Do you like what you heard?"

The lyrics veer from introspective ('At Least I Have Nothing') to nostalgic ('1997') but build a convincing character, which acts as the lynch pin to Voyeur. There's a subtle sense of humour to some of the songs, but this is balanced with the more emotionally and physically traumatic content of closing track 'Balsa Wood Bones'. It's a sing with a murderous heart that Johnny Cash would be proud of. It's also the track that draws together everything that's come before it. While there are moments where Voyeur doesn't quite hit the mark, it's certainly worth persevering, as it holds up well to repeated listens and doesn't lose any of its urgency even when you know where its heading. It looks like all eyes will now be on Saint Motel to see if they can follow Voyeur up with something as ambitious.

Jim Pusey




Official Site - http://www.saintmotel.com


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