Texas six-piece Blue October return to the fray with their 11th full studio album counting from their 1998 debut; this is Spinning The Truth Around (Part I). Be careful not to confuse them with the Essex synth-pop band of the same name formed at about the same time; this latest offering from the Americans is the first in an ambitious trilogy that is expected to be completed next year with Parts II and III – in fact Part II has reportedly already been recorded. For now though, let’s see what the 57-minute opening gambit has to offer.
Blue October offer a consciously radio-friendly sound, and this is a pop album without doubt. That doesn’t mean it’s happy-go-lucky though, as they specialise in the darker end of the spectrum, with a particular penchant for moody, reverb-heavy piano outros, which feature on no less than four of the twelve tracks on offer. Neither do they shy away from dropping the odd profanity into their lyrical content, so it’s probably not a great idea to buy the album for your granny for Christmas, no matter how much she says she likes the lead single, the melodic, beaty but easy title track featured at the foot of this page. Front man and main songwriter Justin Furstenfeld has a laid-back vocal style; for this song, which also opens the album, his pleasant, smoky voice is laid over a constant drum beat and airy keyboard pad. The ambient, heavily reverbed piano ending forms an extended outro on this one, ending on an ominously unresolved note.
The Shape Of Your Heart recalls early Whitesnake, with the guitar arpeggio intro and rumbling bass, with a side-order of staccato ‘80s Eurythmics keyboards. The vocals are almost whispered for the first half of every verse; the second half appears to be double-tracked, with one voice each side of the stereo pan, another effect which adds to the slightly disturbing vibe. The third song carries the title How Can You Love Me If You Don’t Even Like Me, although the phrase is subverted into something slightly different in the lyrics; in any case it’s a dark and heavy theme for a relatively tuneful and catchy pop song. Some backward-masked guitar adds a bit of extra texture, before the atmosphere is lightened somewhat by the more upbeat Don’t Say It Wasn’t Love, with its gospelly background vocals. This number features another atmospheric piano ending with breezy echo effects underneath.
Change is more of a slow rock number, with screeching, acid rhythm guitar work, a vocal duet and a distinct ambience of David Bowie. The double-tracked vocal effect is used again, but this time with different voices, which makes it even more effective. For me, this is a highlight of the album, with several layers of interesting arrangement; a groovy bass section with finger-snapping percussion adds a flavour of Prince to the proceedings too. The bizarrely-titled Where Did You Go? I’m Less Of A Mess These Days is nevertheless somewhat more upbeat again, with acoustic guitar strumming reminiscent of George Michael’s Faith – this number is heavy on the expletives, and they are in fact an integral part of the song rather than just bitter interjections.
I think the above is enough to give an idea of the general flavour of the set; the other number that deserves special attention is When Love Isn’t Good Enough, with its Mark Knopfler-esque muttered prose narrative. The song is draped over an uneasily wonky drum beat in 3-4 time, with loads of reverb thrown in – it starts with a creepy, stalker-type theme, before drifting impressively and unexpectedly into some Italian light opera halfway through. A seven-minute experimental epic, it drifts through a Coldplay mid-section before breaking down into weeping violins towards the end, played over a piano with ambient effects, ending with urban traffic sounds. It’s a great piece of theatre, a real highlight, and is followed by the most bitterly caustic number on the album, the misleadingly-titled Trust You.
If you like your pop dark, brooding and heavy, then this will definitely be up your street; it’s excellently produced and the heavy drapery of effects and reverb add to the foggy curtain of doom. Fans may already know that the multi-talented Furstenfeld is also making his feature film debut this autumn as a villain in the action movie Section 8, starring Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. Hopefully they’ll still have time to get that third part recorded though.