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Brian Crook - Bible Black

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Artist: Brian Crook

Album: Bible Black

Label: Arclife

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

The glory days of New Zealand pop were, in part, powered by the disparity between inspiration and opportunity; the Clean, Tall Dwarfs, Look Blue Go Purple, and (fill in the blank with your favorite) might have been able to imagine ambitious pop masterpieces, but they couldn’t realize them on their pathetically small budgets. One byproduct of this was the rise of the EP; if you only have enough time in the studio to record four or six songs, conventional wisdom seemed to hold, make ’em your best, and the records reflected it.

4-track recorders and (more recently) computers have arisen as one response, but being able to record everything isn’t always the best route. Bible Black, Brian Crook’s (Terminals, Renderers, Flies Inside The Sun) second solo album might have benefited from an EP’s stern discipline. It’s just a bit too much of a decent thing.

Originality isn’t the problem here – Crook’s still searching and challenging himself. He’s throttled back on his full-throated, death-rattle singing of yore, opting instead to moan tragically over some bleak guitar strumming spiked with the occasional shot-in-the-dark distorto lead and stray electronic blip. He also riffles through some back pages to see what they look like given what’s happened in between; there’s a tragicomic return to the corn-liquor-sodden country of really early Renderers called “I Don’t Like My Life.”

Taken a song at a time, or starting half-way through (for some reason the best songs are pushed to the second half), Bible Black is pretty swell. Play it all at once and lethargy takes over. I’m glad to have this record, but I’m also a pretty big fan; neophytes would do better starting with the Renderers’ A Dream Of The Sea or Crook’s other solo record, Bathysphere, then work their way forward and back.

By Bill Meyer

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