Album: The Blue Nile

High, EPSTEIN/SANCTUARY
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The Independent Culture

Like the overrated Prefab Sprout, The Blue Nile are one of the sacred cows of AOR, their albums fawned over in a way that has non-believers like myself scratching our heads in bafflement. The long gaps between Blue Nile albums - this is only their fourth in 21 years - tends, I think, to blind fans to their limitations, which are partly to do with Paul Buchanan's rusty warbling, partly to do with his melancholy world view, and partly to do with the band's musical method. The opener, "Days of Our Lives", relies on a single, repeated piano chord to evoke the desired mood of grey-tinged stasis. It's so defining an element that the question "Are these the days of our lives?" hardly needs answering. The conclusion, "An ordinary miracle is all we really need", speaks volumes about the band's attitude. A similar combination of monochord piano and swelling strings provides the glum portent behind the lives of quiet desperation inhabiting the title track. The formula is perhaps best employed on "Broken Loves",

Like the overrated Prefab Sprout, The Blue Nile are one of the sacred cows of AOR, their albums fawned over in a way that has non-believers like myself scratching our heads in bafflement. The long gaps between Blue Nile albums - this is only their fourth in 21 years - tends, I think, to blind fans to their limitations, which are partly to do with Paul Buchanan's rusty warbling, partly to do with his melancholy world view, and partly to do with the band's musical method. The opener, "Days of Our Lives", relies on a single, repeated piano chord to evoke the desired mood of grey-tinged stasis. It's so defining an element that the question "Are these the days of our lives?" hardly needs answering. The conclusion, "An ordinary miracle is all we really need", speaks volumes about the band's attitude. A similar combination of monochord piano and swelling strings provides the glum portent behind the lives of quiet desperation inhabiting the title track. The formula is perhaps best employed on "Broken Loves", where the piano motif sustains the tension throughout a song about how children reward parental love with ignorance and then, inevitably, desertion. Family, love, security and rootlessness are the themes of High, best covered in "I Would Never", which sounds like a weaker cousin of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name".

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