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Charlie - 2009 Kitchens Of Distinction

ARTIST: Charlie
ALBUM: Kitchens Of Distinction
LABEL: Voiceprint
YEAR: 2009


LINEUP: Terry Thomas - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards

Featuring: Charlie Barratt, Janne Jarvis - bass * Andy Bloom - guitars * Martin Smith - slide * Julian Colbeck - keyboards, fender rhodes

TRACK LISTING: 01 Get A Life * 02 Kitchens Of Distinction * 03 Popstar * 04 Shit TV * 05 Don't Let Go * 06 Alcohol * 07 Cars * 08 Blue Sky Bullshit * 09 The Art Of Cool * 10 West Coast Thing * 11 Never The Same * 12 It's Not Enough



One of the most irritating openings I have read on a rock review was the fact that the reviewer said 'I get lots of promos', well does the reader care or really need to know? Well I don't get any freebies and in fact I paid out 15 for this item. Ok, moan over, but the reasoning behind this opening is that Terry Thomas is pretty annoyed with a number of things as well. Which he eloquently discusses in the return of Charlie. Whilst many of us older chaps retreat off to their potty shed to achieve solitude Terry obviously has a recording studio at the bottom of his garden. A number of characters receive a pasting from our Terry, such as celebrities, the leader of the Conservative Party (although there is no reference to corrupt politicians, as one reviewer would have you believe). In fact Terry bemoans what modern Britain has become over the last 10 years. This could create a problem as a couple of the tunes are very British in terms of lyrical content and I wonder how they cross borders and continents, for instance in 'Blue Sky Bullshit' and 'Shit TV'. Although I am sure the sentiments could easily be transferred to any political person in any country or similar TV celebrities.

The Songs
'Get A Life' provides a pretty ruthless opening, riffs scything through any pre-determined thoughts of this being some soft melodic songfest. If you are familiar with the likes of Porcupine Tree's classic 'Open Car' then this seems to have been built from the same production line. Whatever the scary comparison may be to some, it is still a frightening excellent melodic tune.

The dark melodic sound continues with 'Kitchens Of Distinction', coloured by some deft quiet touches, with the guitar soloing and the odd Hammond moment in the background, building towards the pinnacle like a high speed elevator reaching the top floor and bursting out of the roof.

My favourite tune is in the shape of 'Popstar', with a riff last seen on the Trevor Rabin inspired Yes song, Owner Of A Lonely Heart' popping into the picture. It really kicks lumps out of Robbie Williams, don't let the somewhat comical connotations get in the way of acknowledging the simple, exceptional, expertise displayed in this highly melodic jewel of a song.

This scathing attack on celebrity life and the English lifestyle is continued with 'Shit TV', which may have been written a while ago and some of the celebs who receive a name check are no longer in the public eye to such as an extent (which probably shows the shaky uncertainness their life is based on in the first place). It's immensely clever and surprisingly doesn't become boring on repeated listens, just displays a remarkable lyrical subject and boasts a fine melodic tune. Absorbing, although a commentary of an overhead conversation that could be talking place in a public house.

My thoughts of 'Don't Let Go' can be quickly summed up as the atmosphere that Pink Floyd take 15 minutes to create, Charlie managed it in 5 minutes. Thomas has enlisted lots of sound effects underpinned by a guitaring heartbeat.

Terry could still teach someone like Slash a thing or two with 'Alcohol', which does have a slight Velvet Revolver approach. It's gritty, low slung song, probably the most hard rock song on the album. It still has the odd soft moment, it's like starting with a clean white t-shirt, but by the end of servicing the car, the shirt has oil and sweat smeared all over the shirt.

This nicely drives us to 'Cars' which has a real 70's feel to it, especially with its west-coast chorus. Again clever lyrics, mixing Lamborghini with Rodney Trotter.

With 'Blue Sky Bullshit' it's obvious that Terry Thomas will not be employed by the Tory party to be providing the music for their Campaign song for next year's general election here in the UK. While it centres on David Cameron, the leader and typical management techniques being blue sky thinking, I suppose this still be translated to any country with political parties that promise the earth while not in power, (somebody mention America?). Maybe not so pleasing if that the riffs have a slight likeness to Bad News, 'Warriors of Genghis Khan', the spoof Heavy Metal band. Another frustration buster for Thomas, best to stay away from his home when the parties are canvassing for votes.

'The Art Of Cool' concentrates on the elitist lifestyles of those who gather to live in the most expensive areas of London. It has ZZ Top creeping through the skirting boards of your Georgian Townhouse in NW1, to quote Terry. It develops into quite a deep sprawling blues number crawling through the streets of the capital.

Next up is 'West Coast Thing' well the title gives the orientation here. A more enjoyable track, pretty sedate and has that expected west-coast relaxed groove throughout.

At this stage we do need to be livened up a bit, 'Never The Same' puts some much needed high octane fuel in the tank, which helps prevent the album drifting off.

We finish with one of the strangest tracks, with 'It's Not Enough' and comes across as the most unlike Charlie song I have ever heard. It begins with quite a melancholy piano playing which is quickly dispensed by some rasping riffs which brings to mind The Strokes, as it does have a simple raw song structure. It is a real bone shaker and shows just the complete musician Thomas is by bridging the gap between many different genres.

In Summary
An album that will have more discussion points about the lyrics and song nature, and legally probably has more use of the word 'allegedly' than a whole series of 'Have I Got News For You' (a British political satire program). But don't lose sight of the fact that these are highly accomplished tunes. One man's folly? well yes, but has enough room built into the songs for other listeners to enjoy this work, definitely a case of 'Tales of the Unexpected'. It shows again that Terry Thomas is a master of song writing and provides a breath of fresh air. No two tracks are the same. With this album they haven't retraced the steps of the classic 1983 self titled, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so it is not merely a nostalgia trip for Mr Thomas but a chance to provide his view on modern life. It's obviously become a way to vent his frustration, but enough of my own interpretation, safely to say it's definitely worth picking up due to the songs being interesting, entertaining and highly enjoyable and then be able to make up your own minds on his theories.

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#1 | Jez on November 02 2009 22:39:43
An absolute pearler of an album and as above, my favourite moment on here is definitely the fabulous 'Popstar' (Well Robbie are ya? ). Saying that, the rest of this is absolutely top notch melodic rock, varied in style, which adds extra spice to the whole thing and just makes you go straight back to the beginning, once the last notes of 'It's Not Enough have ended. This, along with this years mighty Shakin' Street comeback album, is without a doubt one of THE biggest surprises of the year for me.
#2 | Eric on November 05 2009 00:16:49
I remember 'Watching TV' from 'Lines' which Charlie (Thomas) took a stab at the crap coming out of American TV in the '70s. Directed at the U.S. market early on, it could be Thomas has always been motivated by the hypocrisy of pop culture, and now doesn't have to bow to a label head and milk toast U.S. audiences to get his point across.

As always - nice review Chris.
#3 | rkbluez on February 01 2012 00:39:56
This one really surprised's a lot more hard rockin' than any album they've done in the past and all the better for's still melodic as hell and I'd have to highly recommend it to anyone who likes their AOR with touchs of hard rock...this one's a real gem as Jez said.

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