In more ways than one, Whistler personifies the understated approach.
Musically blending Kerry Shaw's oh-so-sweet voice, Ian Dench's
ever-enticing acoustic guitar and James Topham's emotive viola,
they've spawned something harrowingly beautiful. Then there are Shaw's
attitude-riddled lyrics; everyday feelings elevated by generous
helpings of brute simplicity.
But, while there's a lot to be said for the old 'understated
approach', Whistler has lost something else along the way: enough good
songs to fill an LP. Therefore, we're treated to an album of bland pop
tunes interspersed with moments of delightful music.
The album begins with 'If I Gave You A Smile', last year's genius
contender for single of 1998. Then it's an extended swathe of
mediocrity, beginning with the latest sub-Nashville single 'Don't Jump
In Front My Train' and not relenting until track seven, 'Heaven Help
Me', a genre-defying lament requesting intervention of the divine
sort. "Heaven help me to be nice to you today / But heaven help me not
to be what you became."
Things don't pick up again until the final song, 'Please Don't Love Me
Anymore', and although finishing on a strong tune is always advisable,
there's an overlying feel of disappointment about the whole affair.
Another year and enough time to pen 10 or 15 fine songs and Whistler's
debut could easily have been wall-to-wall magnificence. Sadly, that
magnificence is - for now - purely hypothetical.
by Michael Gleeson