Album: Gary Jules

Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets, Adventure/Sanctuary
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The Independent Culture

Punters who buy Gary Jules's album expecting more of the "Mad World" stylings that secured the Christmas chart-topper will probably be disappointed, as it's very much the exception here. Instead, Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets presents him as a folkie songwriter whose own material reflects a romanticised outlaw attitude that's about three decades out of date. The neat finger-picking and harmonies on tracks such as "Broke Window" and "Umbilical Town" recall the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and the country-era Grateful Dead, and the overall impression is of some minor troubadour from the Asylum label catapulted into the 21st century. How else could Jules sing, with no apparent trace of irony, such cringe-inducing lines as "Patchwork woman, sunshine suits you fine", "Wine and forgiveness are all that we had", "Raskolnikov out on the stairs/ Howling at the man in the moon" and my favourite, "There's no poetry between us/ Said the paper to the pen"? Musically, it's all very neat and tidy, with nimble acoustic guitar and mandolin borne along by brushed snare, and discreet electric guitar detailing, but the shortfall of blood and fire in all departments is ultimately decisive. The result is akin to an Elliott Smith album without the edgy self-absorption. Which, all things considered, is probably just as well.