The High Llamas Hawaii Alpaca Park CD WOOL 2

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The Independent Culture
There may, I suppose, be some value in replicating on modern equipment the kind of sophisticated arrangements Brian Wilson devised on primitive Sixties machines for Pet Sounds and Smile. But homage aside, it's hard to tell what deeper value resides in Hawaii, on which Sean O'Hagan's High Llamas have painstakingly constructed a pioneer fantasy in the rococo- naive style of Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - a first cousin to the pair's Orange Crate Art and Parks' Discover America, perhaps, though lacking the latter's sly humour.

It's an impressive artifice of style and sound - a sort of eclectic easy- listening, stuffed with strings, vibes, banjos, horns and harpsichords -but the frequent obtrusive references to Wilsonian origins raise the obvious criticisms associated with such retro-pastiches: namely, that considerations of How? have obscured more pertinent considerations of Why? The album's not without its delightful moments - "Peppy" in particular has a most beguiling melody - but too many of the tracks are seriously over-egged puddings, their basic ideas submerged beneath a welter of overdubs and strained vocals, such as those on "Theatreland". This song, about an outmoded artform, ironically applies just as much to the group's own endeavour: as O'Hagan sings, "Is there much appeal/When you can't believe it's real?".

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