West of Eden, A Stupid Thing to Do (West of Music, 2003)
The Faintiní Goats, Itís Showtime (Young & Free Records, 2003)

Two records with quite a lot differences between them.

A Stupid Thing to Do is West of Edenís third full length album. In spite of being a six-piece group, they are centred around Jenny and Martin Schaub. They have written all the songs and Martinís many instruments and Jennyís voice are always the driving forces in those songs.

The aim of West of Eden seems to be to provide lightweight pop with a teaspoon of Celtic flavours added. They are certainly more Corrs than Capercaillie, a development that has been strengthened since their last album, Rollercoaster.

It is not at all bad. The melody lines are pleasant, with some odd twists to awaken you every once in a while, and Jennyís soft soprano has a rich carpet of various acoustic instruments and the odd electric guitar under it. My main objection is the lyrics. In the true tradition of lightweight pop almost every song deals with love, often the sad deserted kind. But I find no real depth in them. Too often they come across as a peep into some teenage girl's diary.

A few favourites:

"My Precious Cynic" is a good up-tempo song, with the person singing trying to convince the one she is in love with that he is not as worthless as he himself thinks. "Flooded" has a dramatic build-up, with drum rolls on the verses. A little heavier than most of the other tracks, it stands out a bit. "Such Is Life" is almost hesitating at the start, an attempt to create a moving ballad that works well. "Bold as Brass" is the opposite to the first song I mentioned. A girl with a strong will claims her man and assures him there is no use trying to object.

The best is almost saved for last. "Willow Tree" shows what West of Eden could be if they put their mind to it. A good ballad in the "She Moves Through the Fair"-tradition with lots of atmosphere, almost haunting in the way it is performed.

Final verdict: A slight improvement on the last album, but a little too lightweight and poppy to make a lasting impression. I think West of Eden should slow down their music, develop the folk influences and write about other things than love as well. I think they have more to offer than is shown here.

I am not sure what to make of The Faintiní Goats third album. From what I hear I would judge them an Irish country group living in England, with the aim to make the audience enjoy a night in the pub when the music comes second to the drinks.

They are a three-piece with guitar, bass and drums, sometimes augmented with a fiddler. In spite of trying to give the CD a fake live feeling about it, they have double tracked the guitars to give the songs a fuller sound. With few exceptions they just run straight through the songs with a lot of enthusiasm, sometimes letting the enthusiasm be an excuse for keeping the odd out-of-tune vocal or fiddle harmony on the record.

The repertoire is a strange mixture of covers, such as "Green Fields of France", "The Town I Loved so Well" and "Donegal Shore" and songs by bass player Mike Reeman and an associate of him. Of the originals, I like "From One Generation to the Next" the best. But I think they would have done better to leave one or two of them out. After all who needs a song about supporting Ireland in the soccer World Cup in 2002 on a record released in 2003?

Sometimes they try different things with the covers. "Galway Bay" is given a reggae treatment that almost works, and the song "Grace" is given an instrumental "Amazing Grace" as the introduction.

But all in all I am less than impressed. Maybe it is a nice souvenir for the faithful fans they thank on the cover, but the songs they cover have been given much better treatments elsewhere and the originals do not really justify a purchase.

[Lars Nilsson]

West of Eden has a Web site here.
Faintin' Goats has one here.