I Am Kloot - Sky At Night
It has often been said that if critical acclaim translated into album sales then I Am Kloot would be millionaires. With four albums in they have generated respect and admiration from the likes of fellow Mancs Elbow, the late John Peel and even Lost hunk Matthew Fox, in addition to a strong and devoted fan base. So why ain't they rich? After 2008's excellent I Am Kloot Play Moolah Roughe many thought they would finally get their day in the sun. Yet alas, the big time still eluded them.
Then word came out that Elbow's Guy Garvey and Craig Potter would once again take the helm and produce the fifth Kloot offering. Having produced their most popular, and many feel their best, album - 2001's Natural History - it is no wonder that the anticipation and excitement grew as fans waited for what would surely be the band's crowning glory.
Unfortunately that is not quite the case. After the fiery full band sound of ...Moolah Rouge, this rather sedate affair is a bit of shock. The album starts off promisingly enough with the lovely 'Northern Skies', John Bramwell evoking the song's loneliness with his understated vocals: "Where did you go on the big black night? / Did you take the coast road back through your life?" The ballad 'To The Brink' with its melancholy strings transporting the song along, and the twitchy 'Fingerprints', highlight the unsung heroes of Kloot: Peter Jobson's elegant bass playing and Andrew Hargreaves tight drumming.
Then the album takes a bit of a weird left turn. 'Lately' feels like Bramwell walking around in the wrong shoes. The tune is erratic and a bit aimless and the song never really takes off. This is then followed by the folky 'I Still Do' and 'The Moon Is A Blind Eye', two fine examples of Bamwell's characteristic introspective moody songwriting yet nothing terribly innovative or new. And then it is a visit from an old friend, the much beloved masterpiece 'Proof' from 2003's self-titled album. Great song yes, but what's it doing on the new album - especially as it sounds virtually identical to the original version? Most odd.
'It's Just The Night', 'Radiation' and 'Same Shoes' close the album, no doubt meant to convey the feel of an intimate smoky Parisian nightclub, but instead of understated the songs feel lacklustre and a bit bland, as if Bramwell's heart just ain't in it.
Despite its deficiencies this is still an I Am Kloot album containing fine examples of Bramwell's sardonic wit and masterful prose, and is well worth a listen. It's just that we may have to wait a bit longer for the breakthrough album.