(album, One Little Indian)
Misrepresented by their publicity, the listener should not anticipate anything remotely Radiohead-like from Underground Railroad. Their album, White Night Stand moves effortlessly from ideas suggested by Portishead, to more rambling and epic pieces with a hint of Gong, Ozric Tentacles, and the merest dash of contemporized folk from the Levellers. This inoffensive collection is perhaps best heard at a moderate level at a polite dinner party, or live at about 3pm at a large festival when you want to be chilling and chatting rather than paying too much attention to the activities on the stage.
Highlights from the album include the first third of the lengthy ‘Seagull Attack’, which subsequently descends into abject psychedelia, promising an epic crescendo, but sadly, peters out, returning to the disappointingly forgettable hook; and the opening minute of ‘Lucky Duck’, wherein some interesting samples lead to gothic drawl, before resolving into something resembling easy listening for the hard of hearing. At times, the trio develop a form of folky bounce, and recent single Ginko Baloba’ makes me want to dance, but I’m not sure why. Unfortunately, the upbeat vibe of this track is spoilt by some serial solo indulgences that hauls the track to another disappointing conclusion.
Badly produced, White Night Stand’s lyrical content is too often reduced to ethereal background echoes, giving an overall sense of being trapped in a small room listening to dub with earmuffs on. The album stretches to evoke misanthropic and paranoid feelings, but only succeeds in getting a grip on some truly uninspiring faux-psychedelia. This is not an album that engages the listener to anywhere near the extent that it indulges itself, and the twee vocal does nothing to enhance or compliment the dirtier aspects and gothic intention of the music, which itself could do with a more visceral edge.
Unfortunately, the album’s production doesn’t readily lend itself to close listening and hasn’t done Underground Railroad any favours; as the band put in a tight, sometimes interesting performance. I’m sure that live, this band would produce the feelings of paranoid loneliness and misunderstanding that is their apparent intention, but the endlessly meandering guitar and vocal, leading to forgettable hooks just made me feel a little queasy.