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Brendel, Doris & Dunham, Lee: Not Utopia

The daughter of acclaimed pianist Alfred Brendel, English songstress Doris Brendel has been producing her own solo work for roughly twenty years. Previously, she fronted Neo-prog outfit The Violent Hour, and on her newest release, Not Utopia, she and collaborate Lee Dunham retain some of the same traits. Truthfully, the production and arrangements are far more appealing than the songwriting and singing, so the end result is only partially worthwhile.

Apparently, Brendel is often compared to Janis Joplin, and you don't have to look any further than opener "No Ordinary Girl" to hear why. Her tone and message share the same raspy aggression as the late 60s icon (albeit in a more listenable way). Unfortunately, like much of the record, the songwriting is very uninvolving and basic. It doesn't sound like the duo put a lot of effort into it, which is a shame since the music, with all of its sporadic effects, intricate changes, diverse influences, and rigorous intensity deserves better. "Ebay" fares even worse, as it's nothing more than a lifeless ballad with minimal instrumentation.

Despite its flaws, there are some more alluring bits, such as the energetic and inspiring "Drawing the Line," the rebelliously atypical "Going Out," the snappy "Not Utopia" (which feels like a lost Garbage piece)and the dynamic and grandiose "Passionate Weekend." The album's final track, "You're So Not," is by the far best of the bunch, as well as the longest and most extensive. It begins with a beautiful blend of piano and flute as Brendel entices with a perfectly complementary verse. Eventually a fierce guitar lines elevate the song into a powerhouse before things go silent for a few minutes. Afterward, a new song starts. It's warm and folksy, with an acoustic guitar leading the charge.

All in all, Not Utopia is a mixed bag. On the one hand, Brendel's voice and melodies often leave something to be desired, but at the same time the arrangements and production are consistently interesting and adventurous. Also, there are some truly unique selections here, resulting in a lot of admirable experimentation. It's worth a listen or two, but after that you'll find that the novelties have worn off while the mediocrities still linger.

Track Listing

1. No Lonely Girl
2. Ebay
3. Drawing the Line
4. Going Out
5. Passionate Weekend
6. Beyond Words
7. Too Bad To Be Good
8. Conflicted
9. Not Utopia
10. Kind To Be Cruel
11. Thank You
12. You're So Not

Added: August 21st 2013
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Official Site
Hits: 1526
Language: english

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