The ingredients for a great album are all here, look for that greatness on their next record.
It’s taken 10 years for Sons Of The East to release an album. Having been a live and streaming success for a while the album was inevitably tagged as “much anticipated.” Describing themselves as an Australian indie folk trio they list their points of similarity as Dylan, Gram Parsons and acoustic English pop singer-songwriters Passenger and Ben Howard.
And it’s the latter two who are most in evidence early on. The opening songs on ‘Palomar Parade’ have a rather odd sound. ‘Hard Playing Hard To Get’ opens with a drum machine sound that is fun for a moment but 3 minutes into the song is frankly annoying. ‘You Might Think’ comes across as one of Elton John’s more syrupy ballads, all keyboard washes and again what sounds for all the world like the drum machine on a cheap Casio keyboard. A Dylan style Harmonica adds a little bite in the middle, but this is the sort of pop that Keane doled out and has little of substance to offer.
Matters improve with ‘Not All My Fault’. Its bar room piano, “real” sounding drums, and a more heartfelt vocal make this a much more pleasant listen. A pedal steel Is buried in what is a well written song. ‘Tail Light’ is a perfectly decent country ballad, mainly because the production Is dialled down, and the rough edges allowed to show a bit. The duff drum machine reappears on the next songs ‘What I Do’ and ‘Undone’. The latter has real potential as a ballad, but some more odd production choices mean that potential remains unrealised. The jaunty ‘Another Night’ is another album high point. ‘No One To Blame’ finds their Eagles influence emerging and their harmonies are every bit as good as that band. The last five songs of the album are easily the best of the album, almost as if the producer got bored and allowed the band to just be themselves for a bit. The quality of the songs are more obvious, they hit a country groove that suits them well, and you can understand what the hype was about. Listening to some of their You Tube videos, you can hear the band featured on these later songs. Although airbrushing Dan Wallage’s Banjo from the album feels like a mistake as that gives their live sound a distinctiveness on the poppier songs that they lack here. There is a really good record hiding here. It just feels like some of this was produced by a committee trying to force them into a commercial straitjacket.
The problem here is the production, it seems to have sanitised their sound too much, at least on the front half of the album. The song writing is top drawer and the singing as good as you would expect from people who have been plying their trade for 10 years. ‘Palomar Parade’ is just an album that can’t make up its mind what it wants to be, pop, country, acoustic. If Sons Of The East grab back control of album number two it could be something really special.