Review : The Doozer - Keep it Together
PitchforkIt seems as if every singer-songwriter with "weird" characteristics gets compared to the greats such as Syd Barrett, or even the under-the-radar greats such as Chris Knox. Those comparisons won't be going away anytime soon for Cambridge, UK singer-songwriter the Doozer, though he's abandoned his solo setup and recorded Keep it Together with 11 other musicians. The style of his fourth album is actually far removed from Knox and Barrett. In its grab-bag-orchestra instrumentation and library-quiet charm, the Doozer's songs are more in the realm of Glaswegian twee. Considering the experimental, homespun vibe of the three albums that came before it, Keep it Together's colorful arrangements give it the kind of vibrancy and pop-friendliness his past work was lacking.
Opener "Burning Bright" shows the newly assembled band putting its best foot forward. Leaning on a sturdy vocal melody, the track goes a long way on a simple chord progression, scattered lyrics suggesting new beginnings, and a buoyant string section. On Keep it Together as a whole, the instruments come together surprisingly well for an artist normally used to a vastly more minimal setup. The songs are often lush and ornate, and for any lover of unconventional instrumentation, there are a few genuine surprises. (Sitar! A tuba reportedly bought from the Salvation Army!) Once the novelty of the added bells and whistles wears off, however, all you have is a pretty-but-boring pop album.
Aside from "Burning Bright" and ballad "The Island", the other songs barely deviate from the same plodding tempo, making the album's 41 minutes seemingly last hours longer. There's rarely a surge in energy or even a mild outburst: The guitars are strummed politely, and the drums are played with brushes. Even the aforementioned tuba loses its luster about halfway through "Jobsworth". In graduating from a cast of one to a cast of a dozen, the Doozer not only jettisoned the more challenging aspects of his past albums, he also got rid of what made them interesting....full text
ConsequenceofsoundOn the outer edges of pop music lies The Doozer, backed by 11 band members, who together create music that makes them sound like their record collection is filled with hidden gems from ’60s psych/folk pop. The Doozer, who hails from Cambridge, UK, recalls The Zombies with his ear for instantly familiar refrains sung through a dramatic evenness that adds a twang of wistful theatrics. There are plenty of instruments and solos here – a string quartet, horns, a Salvation Army tuba, and piano to name a few – and as the backdrop for the narrative of Keep It Together, they create a warm and simultaneously unnerving mood that feels like Syd Barrett (on a good day).
On opening track “Burning Bright”, The Doozer pleads, “Won’t you stay? Won’t you stay?” By the time the upbeat, folksy single “Fold Up Chair” enters two songs later, the bright strum-along and Doozer’s hypnotic vocals have impressed upon you. His seemingly simple lyrics and hooks have an easy familiarity that harkens to a time period long past. But at times, the formula starts to sound a bit tired.
Often the hooks on Keep It Together are repeated questions left unanswered and seemingly simple, stated facts (“One and one. There’s two of everything”) stretched out to clear the way for a string solo. While such a pattern fits the tone and narrative quality of his songs, even at just over 40 minutes in length, the lyrical makeup of the bulk of Keep It Together is either a bit too long or a bit too repetitive. The music, however, is continually engaging. With the wide variety of instruments and a whole cast of band members to create with, The Doozer’s latest effort effectively strikes that familiarly new feeling. There’s the comfort of nostalgia but just enough guitar fuzz to give it an updated re-examination....full text
BowlegsmusicWhen it comes to gut reaction, there are always going to be albums that come out that you know are either going to make your heart sigh, or make you puke blood for as long as it takes to expel their foul stench from your system. Keep it Together, the latest album from The Doozer, achieved neither reaction.
This is an album I really wanted to like, and hoped it would make me feel the heart sighing thing. I listened to it again and again and again, looking for that special ingredient. But while it doesn’t evoke instant love, neither does it incite the whole blood/vomit experience. Instead it falls into a category some may deem even worse – that of the middle ground, where the main form of reaction is a shoulder shrugging ‘meh’. Why did I want to like it so much? Well, I guess due to enjoying most of Woodsist’s releases, I had expectations – expectations that weren’t meant. Is that The Doozer’s fault? Yes – yes it is.
The problem is that once the album finds a groove, it rarely leaves. At times this can lead to beautiful songs, like the bobbing Fold Up Chair and the horn infused Jobsworth. It’s at these times you can see The Doozer reflecting the positive elements of both Syd Barrett and Son of Euro Child era Euros Childs. Other times though, it drones and whips up a fug in your head, like in the chugging Low Point or Oh Unbelievers!
It’s an album that’s crying out for variation. The song-writing is there – clever and witty, thoughtful and provoking. But rarely is it supported by the music. By the time you get to Display Cabinets there’s a feeling you’ve heard that guitar part several times before – that vocal structure, that underlying piano. I’m determined not to give up on The Doozer though, as there’s enough of a glimmer to make me think better things are yet to come....full text
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- 1. The Island
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