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Mr. So & So - Truths, Lies & Half Lies CD (album) cover


Mr. So & So



3.80 | 43 ratings

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kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars I was recently asked for a photo of myself in the early 'Feedback' days by Mick Magic of Music & Elsewhere, and the one that seemed most relevant was one where Artur Chaclowski of MLWZ was visiting me at my home in England approximately 20 years ago. The reason for putting that at the beginning of a review? I was wearing a bright red So & So shirt. I first became aware of the band when Steve Paine of Legend sent me their demo tape, as he was going to be recording their debut album at Pagan and releasing it on the label and he wanted to know my opinion. I was blown away, not only by the musicianship of the band (they met at music college) but the incredible driven arrangements, and it was only then that I found out that they were still very young.

Over the years I reviewed everything they released, and Dave Foster (guitar) and I kept in close contact. I managed to see them in concert a couple of times, and they changed from a four piece to a five as Charlotte joined as a second singer. For one reason or another they broke up, but Dave and Charlotte formed Sleeping Giant, before the decision was made that the time was right for Mr. So & So to start up again. Only Magoo (bass, vocals), The Dave and Charlotte were back for the ride but the resulting 'Sugarstealer' four years ago was a real ear opener. And so, here we are in 2013 with an album that certainly looks promising from the outside with stunning artwork that is so good that the band didn't put their name or a title on the front. But what about the music?

The introduction to "Paperchase" is metal, which turns into prog metal, before settling down into a duet that is quite different to what has gone before. The band keeps crunching back, then letting the singers in, with a beck and call that is both effective and compelling. It is obvious from the off that this is going to be a very different So & So album as they have brought in some more overtly commercial elements, yet are tempering that with chunks of Tool and even some Zappa. Musically there has been a shift in the bass playing as well, with Shaun no longer driving as much as he used to, which used to be a key part of their overall sound, but Charlotte is now firmly embedded in the overall sound and it is hard to imagine her not being there.

Musically there is so much going on that it is difficult to know where to start, with Dave being strident and powerful when required, or delicate and almost invisible at others, while Stu has brought an almost jazz-like feel to the drumming with some wonderful counterpoints and great use of cymbals. Vocals are incredibly important with some lush harmonies and even a little a capella and Shaun is definitely singing the best I have ever heard, while there are more ballads in the mix. I have to be honest and say that there are large parts of "You're Coming Home" that make me think of The Beautiful South, but way more lush, and should be released as a single.

But for all the complex arrangements and dynamic overtones that are being portrayed throughout the album as a whole, it is the fifth "Looking Glass" that brings it all home for me, with Andy providing some delicate piano that allows Charlotte to really shine, with just slight harmonies from Shaun here and there. It is very reminiscent of Anna Ryder, emotional, fraught, genuine and honest. The album is a real mix of styles, and it does take a while for the listener to 'get' the album as a whole instead of just a collection of numbers, but to me that is a strength as it really does reward repeated plays and the more I have listened to it the more I have got from it.

I am always nervous about receiving an album from certain bands, as I have known them personally for so long that I know that my attempted objective view will be tempered by history, so what happens if they release a duff one? Happily I have not been put into that situation here, and these guys just keep maturing and changing without totally losing their roots. Just listen to the guitar break in "Jingo" and you'll see what I mean as Dave cranks it up and totally changes the direction and impact of the song. You won't be disappointed

kev rowland | 5/5 |


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