Tuesday, 19 February 2008

If you want, we can get together...

Great Overlooked Albums #3

Astrid - Play Dead

Whereas nowadays the likes of Sons & Daughters and Camera Obscura see their wistful indie-pop on fashionistas' must-have lists, their fellow countrymen Astrid didn't have it so easy in their heyday at the turn of the century. Headed by frontmen Charlie Clark and William Campbell, Astrid had a pop sensibility that in any right-thinking society would've seen them propelled onto any radio playlist worth its salt.

Debut album Strange Weather Lately was a masterclass in short, sharp pop songwriting, and a slew of singles were spun from it, suggesting that their label Fantastic Plastic thought they were on to a winner.

I first came across the band when they were promoting the record on a free tour sponsored by Melody Maker, and would, in the following couple of years witness many more brilliantly energetic live shows which belied the fact there weren't actually many people in the audience.

When it came to making the follow-up, rumours abounded that after a chance meeting, Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne was heading for the producer's chair. It would've made perfect sense if he had; in hindsight, Astrid's first two records echoed the FoW model of a blistering pop debut followed up by something that dug a bit deeper and revelled in mellower moments. But even by the high standards set by Strange Weather Lately and the mass of fantastic b-sides from its singles, it would've been hard to foresee a follow-up as fantastic as Play Dead.

The focus was still on the insanely catchy singalong melodies, but nestled in among the powerpop of It Never Happened and the singles Tick Tock and Modes Of Transport were chilled out moments of beauty, such as the wistful Alas, the countryfied Taken For Granted and - possibly the best of the bunch - the hidden bonus track We'll Drive Away.

A third album, in 2004, had a limited release in some territories, but inter-band conflict meant it was only a matter of time before it all came tumbling down. Charlie Clark was last seen in Cold Night Song, while William Campbell appears to be working with poet Kevin MacNeil.

MP3: Astrid - Modes Of Transport

MP3: Astrid - Wrong For You

MP3: Astrid - We'll Drive Away

Buy Play Dead