Review of Light The Horizon Album by Bedouin Soundclash

Bedouin Soundclash make confident, clean-cut, commercially viable pop which tastefully blends together elements drawn from reggae, rock and soul music. They're accessible but never stupid; they're talented musicians, but they never show off; they owe a debt to musically adventurous bands, but carefully dilute their influences so that they're easier to swallow. If they were a beer they'd be a smooth, slightly upmarket lager. If they were a book, they'd be an unread Ian McEwan novel, lying in the middle of a coffee table in a sparsely decorated riverside apartment. If they were an item of furniture, they'd be that coffee table. If they haven't already soundtracked a car advert, they will do so soon.

Bedouin Soundclash Light The Horizon Album

All of which is slightly laboured way of saying that they make pleasant but inessential music which is easy to like but hard to love. Nobody is ever going to call Light The Horizon their favourite album; at the same time, it's undeniably pleasant and well-crafted. If you're looking for something cheerful, tuneful and undemanding which you can play in the office without it distracting you from whatever you're meant to be doing, this is the record for you. Opener 'Mountain Top' sets the scene nicely; its first verse contains the lines 'There's not much left to say/we sit alone and stare/hotel rooms in nowhere', but the chirpy chorus and loping beat gloss over any lyrical anxieties. 'Mountain Top''s easy charm is replicated elsewhere, as is its tactic of cloaking downbeat lyrics in cheerful melodies. If another band had written it, 'Brutal Hearts' would sound bitter and spare. The words which Jay Malinowski and Beatrice Martin sing are uneasy and sometimes angry; the relationship the song chronicles is falling apart. But Bedouin Soundclash's default musical setting is 'extremely mellow', and the ambling bassline, insouciant vocal deliveries and casual percussion contrive to diffuse any possibility of tension.

The relaxed nature of their sound should not obscure how calculated their songwriting can be. This is a band who know precisely when to hit every chorus; every note, and every pre-chorus crash of the drums, is in its right place. This is one of the band's strengths, but also a weakness; however good your songwriting formula is, failing to deviate it can leave you sounding formulaic. As such, and despite the group cover a lot of stylistic ground on Light The Horizon, they can sound rather predictable.

Then again, perhaps it's unfair to accuse Bedouin Soundclash of being predictable; they hardly set out to overawe and surprise the listener. They're happy sounding relaxed, comfortable, and catchy, and I'm sure that their music will soundtrack more than one barbecue in the summer months ahead.

Nick Gale

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