Toshack Highway

[B]Toshack Highway[/B] could come up with a truly great album. They seem to be on the right road.

Named, in a fashion, after two of Liverpool FC’s most famous sons (John Toshack and Stevie Heighway), this beguiling album is the debut from Adam Franklin, former frontman of shoegazing kings Swervedriver, with help from studio engineer/keyboardist and REM/High Llamas collaborator Charlie Francis. It seems Franklin is opting for a much quieter life altogether now.

‘Toshack Highway’ sees him abandon those swirling four-guitar sonic assaults and instead embrace all things electronic: one part Air, one part High Llamas. Experimental keyboard-based soundtracks of the ’60s also seem to be something of an obsession (the lazily bouncing ‘Theme’), as does space travel (the hypnotically atmospheric ‘Just Landed’). There’s even a nod to past shoegazing glories with ‘Valentine Number One’, which sounds, guess what, like a mellow My Bloody Valentine.

In fact, the only problem is that the album’s a bit too soothing and sickly sweet, like eating a whole packet of Lockets in one go.

Only ‘Man In The Middle East’ sees Toshack Highway attempt to throw away the map, experiment, and see where it gets them. But the repetitive, abrasive vocals and discordant instrumentation simply make for annoying listening rather than a challenge. But with a little more willingness to veer from the straight and narrow, who knows, Toshack Highway could come up with a truly great album. They seem to be on the right road.

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