REVIEW : Vacancy - Brainwashed

With the long-awaited follow-up to his 1996 debut, "Big City Secrets", Joseph Arthur proves he is the defibrillator paddle that can shock some life back into the stale corpse of the singer/songwriter stereotype.

He makes music that is a boiling down of the past twenty years of groundbreaking popular music: from "Rain Dogs" to World Party, Guided By Voices to Bob Dylan. How can you doubt a kid from Ohio who's music so impressed Peter Gabrial, he not only signed him to his Realworld record label, but also sang back-up on his debut along with Brian Eno! 

His tunes, while carrying enough pop for radio play, are too intelligent to be sandwiched between other verse-chorus-verse slaves. He mixes standard solo and group line-ups with added tape loops, noise, and treated exotic instruments (What the hell is a caxixi, anyway?). While this album (a mini album, really, just a teaser for his upcoming sophomore effort) has a much more stripped down sound to it, it still encompasses different genres and pays debts to obvious influences. 

The title track could be an out take from Nick Drake's "Pink Moon", which gives way to the uncampy doo-wop of "Crying On Sunday." The albums ends, strangely enough, with "Toxic Angel", a chameleon-esque track that starts off a beautiful ballad and ends as a noisy shuffle of haunting piano, drums, and low-level samples, sounding not too different from Scanner's more introspective material. 

Should you buy this? My answer would be yes, without a doubt.

by Jason Olariu, 1999-05-23