Review of Christiania Album by Napoleon IIIrd

Holmfirth is the home of Last Of The Summer Wine and now also a 'Crackpot from Leeds', a.k.a James Mabbett, a.k.a Napoleon IIIrd, a former member of the band Little Japanese Toy. You'd be unlikely to see his music featured in the show, they are so diametrically opposed. Christiania is Napoleons 2nd album, his follow up to 'Debt To' an album recently described to me as 'Magical.'

Napoleons blend of Alt-Pop crafted from 'Antique organs' and 'Car-Boot keyboards' is certainly not chart troubling fodder produced to satisfy the want of a particular 'market niche' or 'end user' preference. His love of the 2 Brians, Eno and Wilson may be no secret but the evidence is probably more within the production and the overall ideas than any clear lineage, with the possible exception of 'That Town', the albums most harmonious song. 'Not the type of guy to take his shirt off in the Sun' Napoleon prefers to be less obvious, more intriguing and in doing so asks more of the listener. If catchy ditties with killer hooks and sing-a-long choruses float your Alt-Pop boat you'll be disappointed.

Napoleon IIIrd Christiania Album

Leading off with 'The Unknown Unknown' the album hits you with instant impact with Napoleon sounding rather like Bruce Springsteen doing lead vocal on a Chemical Brothers dance track. As the tune progresses further these extremes become blurred but are nonetheless relevant. Electronica meets birdsong on 'Leaving Copenhagen' where his 'Political tendencies sway towards the anarchistic' and his musical ones lean towards the very early 80's. Traits of The Do's 'Playground Hustle' are captured with the repetitive synth sequence and strained over layered vocal on 'The Headline Optimist' whilst in 'This Town' you get an almost military, faux fetish feel of dark theatrical pop.

'Guys Just Wanna Have Sun' sees the softer side of Napoleon as he trips through Air territory using a subtle Asian feel. 'Rough Music' is anything but as a more atmospheric, spaced out and trance like swathe of sound washes past until the last third spoils the calm with a near Peter Gabriel like finale. More interesting rhythm patterns and percussive arrangements are used to see out the album with the Blade Runner like 'I Try' and 'MTFU' rounding off the 9 piece set.

Christiania is very exploratory and imaginative and doesn't settle for the easy, established or conventional. It asks a lot of the listener and is not necessarily a wholly pleasurable experience. Overall I found it hard work and I am at odds to see just how such major critical acclaim could have been heaped on it, seemingly without exception, but then it wouldn't do to all be of the same opinion would it?

Andrew Lockwood.

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