All About Eve - Iceland (Jamtart)
You know all about it, Christmas rolls around again and you're driven absolutely demented by your family or workmates getting into a Christmas mood by playing the most awful album of carols or, even worse, cheesy pop seasonal "classics". Well no more, courtesy of truly classic '80s band All About Eve (remember 'Martha's Harbour' anyone?), what we've got now is a, shock horror, good seasonal record.
Julianne Regan's instantly recognisable voice is as lush as ever, but, after 10 years out of action, the All About Eve sound has changed quite a bit from '92's rocky "Ultraviolet" and it's folkier predecessors. "Iceland" showcases a more electronic sound, not dance, but a more modern take on the past. This isn't exactly a new album, more an eclectic precursor to one with a Wintry theme.
It kicks off with a virtually unrecognisable cover of Wham's 'Last Christmas', the cheesy pop ballad turned into a slightly mournful down-tempo piece with an absolutely seductive vocal from Julianne. Their take on 'Walking in the air', formerly a hit for Aled Jones and the theme from "the Snowman", is even stranger, transformed into an atmospheric electronic piece with softly distorted vocals and a slightly twisted feel, with more than a hint of David Lynch about it.
Then there's a radical electronic reworking of their '80s single 'December' from the "Scarlet and other stories" album. It was a classic then and, despite the change from acoustic music to slightly clunky beats and washes of synth sounds and loops, Julianne's voice is still soars high. The reworking shows that you can remix old songs without losing what made them amazing before.
Then it's time for two new tracks, 'Melting' and 'Cold', both of which use a nice mix of electronic sounds and traditional instruments (like the piano on 'Cold') to do what the music of All About Eve is supposed to do, provide a platform for Julianne's voice. There's a similarity with the trip hop sounds of Portishead, but, despite the cold themes, these are much warmer songs than anything Portishead have done, songs that evoke a night in front of the fire on a snowy night rather than the snow itself. Roll on the new album is all I can say.
Their cover of Queen's 'A Winter's tale' is a brighter sounding piece, slow, but cheerier and less introspective than its predecessors, and how could it not be with a line like 'It's all so beautiful like a landscape of the sky', though at the very edges there seems to be a hint of sadness that belies the apparent cheeriness. And then, at the very end, just in case the album has soothed you too much and you feel yourself drifting off to a warm sleep, 'December's Amnesia Mix', a big, brash and noisy reworking of 'December' that loses most of the vocals and crashes and bangs all over the place, kicks in to wake you up. It's an off-kilter ending that you'd never have predicted. It's guaranteed to annoy your family and workmates after you've persuaded them to stick on your CD instead and lulled them into a false sense of security.
This is a great selection and a fabulous return for a great band that has been away far too long. The fact that they've returned with such a quirky thing as a seasonal record proves they, thankfully, don't take themselves too seriously and are making music for the fun of it. Would that more people did the same.