Buzzle Bee

We listen for a while, then everything - this music, our brains - begins to atrophy....

There has to be a point to The High Llamas, doesn't there? Can it really suffice to say that marrying early '70s Beach Boys bossa nova to Stereolab jazz-pop is such a great idea that we will gladly accept album after album from Sean O'Hagan that never swerves from that blueprint?

If we refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt, then O'Hagan's carefully constructed sonic blancmanges congeal pretty quickly. Like Stereolab, The High Llamas are obsessive nerds, endlessly tweaking minute elements of their sound in such a neurotic, self-regarding manner that only other nerds could tell the difference. We listen for a while, then everything - this music, our brains - begins to atrophy.

The High Llamas made one great record, 'Gideon Gaye', which proved O'Hagan could write masterful, sugary psychedelic AOR. He proves it again here, with 'The Passing Bell' which is brilliant Capri-Sun pop - and O'Hagan knows it, because he lets it meander on beautifully for ten minutes. After that, we're at the mercy of his wayward desire to say nothing of any consequence in the style of 'Holland'-era Brian Wilson with sunstroke.

And he does just that. Again.

Christian Ward

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