You know recently I've been listening a lot to the Clientele, and I've been listening a lot to Scientist. And hearing One Bedroom last night it occurred to me that if there is a straight line between the two, The Sea And Cake sit slap bang in the middle of it. Like The Clientele, TSAC make these sly, sfumato pop pieces, smokily obscured and understated. At the centre of each song sits a strange melody, one which can turn on you, turn on a sixpence. Glints of melody and lyric lighting crooked paths. Even when the noise they make verges on the heavy, there's a lightness of touch, they're always on their toes.
And Scientist. Of all the masters of dub, Scientist had an uncanny feel for The Groove. With all the wacky noises and effects boxes in the world, he'd let a rhythm run for precisely the right period. He would always leave room for the rhythm to unwind but change things round at the right time, never allowing things to become a bore. Even when the rhythm's heavy, he has a lightness of touch, he's always on his toes. The Sea and Cake are a bit like that.
You know recently I have been hearing a lot about all the great music made in the late seventies and early eighties. Maybe I'm not paying the attention I might, but I never hear about the Feelies. I'm not worried that The Feelies aren't often spoken about in hushed tones, that's the way it goes. I like to imagine Crazy Rhythms lying there dreaming for twenty years. I imagine the music of 2003 which Crazy Rhythms, older and none the wiser, would dream. One Bedroom is a bit like that.
You know recently it's been impossible to escape from the Beach Boys. I'm not complaining: I love the Beach Boys. I get a little bored of hearing about Pet Sounds ahead of some of their other great records, but as I say, I'm not complaining. The biggest cliché of all is hating Sloop John B, which stands out like a sore thumb on the LP. I hate it too, tacky application of stock band sounds to tacky original material. The cover of Sound And Vision which ends One Bedroom is a bit like that.
You probably know better than I do that The Sea and Cake are related to Tortoise in various ways. Whenever I hear Tortoise (preferably pronounced Tort-wahs, please) I think they sound great. Twenty seconds later I'm bored. It's amazing how a groove is enhanced by a sprinkling of song, isn't it? I played One Bedroom to my brother. He said it was boring. It's not a bit like that but it's maybe their most even in mood and tempo. The other records tend to have a few stand-out songs on them. On this one, each song (almost each one) has a few stand-out moments on it.
You probably know there's a 'but' coming at the end of this review.
You know, it's a terrific record but I don't know I'll ever love One Bedroom. It's a bit like lots of brilliant things, but it's also a bit like the friend of a friend who you're happy to meet in the pub, but whose number you don't ask for. It's hard to tell, I've only spent a little time with it so far. We have a lot in common, One Bedroom and I, but it's not love. Not yet.
© 2003 Tim Hopkins