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Cinema Red and Blue - Cinema Red and Blue

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Artist: Cinema Red and Blue

Album: Cinema Red and Blue

Label: What's Your Rupture?

Review date: Oct. 27, 2010

Cinema Red and Blue is made up of musicians from Comet Gain and Crystal Stilts, working in collaboration with Gary Olson from The Ladybug Transistor, and is the sort of supergroup that complements perfectly the work of its various members’ full-time commitments. Comet Gain, whose 15-year career was nicely summarized by the compilation Broken Record Prayers released by What’s Your Rupture last year, specializes in urbane pop music, usually given an autumnal cast by lead singer David Feck’s voice and lyrics. Crystal Stilts play a scruffier brand of music, and its fondness of lo-fi production and direct, immediate melodies earns the band more comparisons to early 1980s Flying Nun bands, but its work nevertheless bears a pretty close family relationship to the best of Comet Gain. So, the members of Cinema Red and Blue were not likely to push each other into new and unexpected creative directions, given that they share the same basic approach (and, it bears adding, because virtually anything David Feck sings will sound unmistakably like Comet Gain). Even if it’s not a revelation, Cinema Red and Blue is a good example of the virtues of getting what you expected.

The material is a mixture of original songs and covers. The originals show a lot of the same garage rock and northern soul influences that Comet Gain has displayed over the years. Perhaps because this is a side project, however, the compositions sound rougher around the edges, without the refinement of extensive woodshedding. “Jesse Lee Kinkaid” is a dusty ballad for its first few minutes but makes a pretty sudden turn just before the three-minute mark, and ends with a spoken word section. The opener “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough” has a couple of short verses, but the hook is just Feck’s repetition of the title words over repeating guitar and organ figures, and the effect, whether intentional or not, is to make the song sound heavily improvised.

Other songs are slightly more polished but nevertheless have an appealing directness. Three consecutive ballads in the album’s first half – “Ballad of a Vision Pure,” “Ballad of a Bus Stop,” and “Ballad of an All-Night Worker” – are classic Comet Gain (“Ballad of a Vision Pure” is about a band “trying hard to sound like the Swell Maps”) with a more muscular instrumental bed. The following “Melanie Down” is a short and sharp C-86 style pop song, and also one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard this year.

The covers are not particularly well known, but complement the original material nicely. A version of the Chills’ “Brave Words,” featuring vocals from Hamish Kilgour of The Clean, closes the album, and the two most lively tracks are covers of Vic Goddard’s “Same Mistakes” and the Len Bright Combo’s “You’re Gonna Screw My Head Off.” The final cover, a quiet rendition of Dead Moon’s “Love in the Altitude” may be the best.

Whether the band Cinema Red and Blue will be a one-off project or a more enduring supergroup remains to be seen; but the album Cinema Red and Blue sits comfortably alongside the best work of its constituent groups.

By Tom Zimpleman

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