Reviews in alphabetical order by: 30music, 411mania, All Gigs, Angry Ape, Atomic Duster, Austinist, Aversion, BBC 6 Music, Big Cheese, Bullz Eye, Campus Circle E Newsletter, Chicago Innerview, Clash Mag, Comfort Comes, Contact Music, Die Shellsuit, Epoch Times, Feminist Review, First Post, Fuzzy Thoughts, Ground Control, Is This Music, Kaffeine Buzz, Manchester Evening News, Metro, MOJO Magazine, Music Snobbery, Neu Magazine, New Noise, NY Daily News, Playmusic, Popmatters, Punk News, Q Magazine, Radio Exile, Rant Magazine, Rock City, Rock Sound, Skyline Press, Smother Mag, Stranger Mag, Subba-Cultcha, The Fire Note, The Fly, The Line Of Best Fit, The Sun, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Tripwire, This Is Nottingham, Thosecritics, Time Out New York, Tiny Mix Tapes, TNT, Twisted Ear, Ultimate Guitar, Uncut Magazine, Yahoo Canada, Yahoo UK.
Quotes from reviews – click links to read in full – some scans.
30music: 7/10 – “Secrets” and “Cold World/Starry Night #1” are Beatles-style pop, though on the “John on drugs/Paul in charge” end of the spectrum.
What’s important is that the band seems to have designed the album to be listened to as a whole; there’s a feeling that, besides the obvious bookends, the overarching lyrical sentiment and dedication to keeping the listening experience fresh was a purposeful attempt to create a cohesive experience without being an obvious concept album. Vocalist Thomas White almost always puts himself in the place of the wise sage, either trying to comfort someone or admonishing them for not listening to his advice.
411mania 7.5 – “Woken By A Kiss” shows the bands Pink Floyd influence with a drugged-up, crawling number that sounds like the soundtrack to your weirdest good dreams.
ESP has dialed back their indulgent nature to craft better sounding, tighter songs. And that’s a positive, because instead of compromise, the band has gained a direction, and that focus has led to a much brighter, driven set of songs. Still, there’s room for exploration, especially during the album’s bookend title tracks.
All Gigs Cold World could have been right out of a McCartney 60s songbook, with its upbeat and catchy hooks.
Angry Ape: There is a certain brooding nature that seeps through the back catalogue and spills over into this foray. It comes out with impunity in the dawdling ballad ‘Secrets’. Featuring lyrical snippets that would be well placed next to Murphy’s Law in the Oxford English Book of Quotations;
“Keep your feelings well hid, they will only get trodden on”
This album projects a variety of feelings, moods, styles and rhythms, rather than the groove maintenance approach that has been prevalent on the past two albums. If it takes four more years to produce another offering of musical depth, strength, empiricism and broad range like this, then I don’t think too many true indie connoisseurs will be complaining.
Atomic Duster 8/10 – The woozy “Woken By A Kiss” is more like the stuff we were alerted to by their marvellous “Holes In The Wall” album from way back when. ESP create some magnificent dreamscapes with which to hypnotise the listener and send a warm tingle down your spine. Great stuff, and nice to know they’re still around.
Austinist The group is unable to choose between three possible identities; one of Smiths-inspired Brit pop, another caught in experimental, lo-fi doldrums and a third all about the dance-able angular guitars that made so many fall in love with the first Bloc Party record. However, in this case it’s the last identity that’s the most agreeable, and “If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know” is a prime example. It comes equipped with hooky guitar riffs, dance party-worthy beats and even the occasional keyboard blip.
Aversion: 4/5 – With a sound that encompasses everything from piano-centered pop tunes to loud-and-proud guitar rockers, brothers Alex and Thomas White move between nearly pastoral serenity and hard-workin’ powerhouse indie-rock. And they’re not just good at it — they’re good enough to prove that fans don’t need to be insulted with one-sound albums any longer.
No Need to Be Downhearted holds together as an album — not just a sporadic collection of songs. Chalk one up to the band’s ability to keep its identity at the fore no matter what sound is coming out of its amps.
BBC 6 MUSIC: To form a supergroup when you’re still in your twenties? Slightly outrez wouldn’t you say? Ok, well it is quite presumptive but if you have the talent to back it up, hell, why not! Kind of what brothers Tom and Alex White of the Electric Soft Parade did when they teamed up with Eamon Hamilton (he of British Sea Power) and Marc Beatty to form indie supergroup Brakes, but it hasn’t meant they’ve been shirking their Soft Parade commitments.
They’ve a new album set for release in April and single from it “If That’s The Case Then I Don’t Know”… And why not spread their prodigious talents far and wide? These boys can play and write, they can even produce.
From their debut album in 2002 Holes In The Wall, which was Mercury nominated, to the futuristic rock of the completely analogue follow-up The American Adventure, to The Human Body EP out at the tail end of 2005. Which brings us to 2007 and No Need To Be Downhearted on which the brothers claim to have appropriated all the sounds and techniques of Abbey Road without going anywhere near the studios, some feat.
There’s been minimum money and minimum resources spent on the album, it’s a real DIY effort with every instrument, all the engineering and production done by the brothers themselves. It’s a DIY release in a very pure sense, but, low-fi, we are promised, it ain’t.
Big Cheese (click for scan) Indie starlets come of age… The results are somewhat breathtaking.
Bullz Eye 3.5/5 – The British music press has been known to try and make Oasis comparisons when speaking of ESP, but it’s mostly because the band is led by two brothers: Thomas and Alex White. These guys might occasionally drift into Britpop territory, but it’s a rarity, mostly because they enjoy their keyboards too much. The synth line running through the last minute of “Life in the Backseat” will have you bouncing in your seat.
Campus Circle E Newsletter (click for scan) Grade A – If there’s no need to be downhearted, how do brothers Thomas and Alex White plan to cheer us up? Well to be “Woken By A Kiss” is a pretty good start…
Chicago Innerview The difference between their approach and the approach of countless others is simple to ascertain: they sound better and write better songs. Acoustic guitars and pianos on some songs will exist symbiotically with the syncopated bass and fuzz that blisters through others. Instead of barking or gawking their lyrics like robots, they actually sing. And if for some reason you don’t like their music, at least you’ll feel smarter and/or more cultured after listening to them.
Clash Mag (click for scan) They continue their pursuit of their magical eclectic sound. From the indie disco monster of If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know, to the piano rock of Cold World, they demonstrate their mastery of the studio and the song.
Comfort Comes: 9.6 – This album is a really special piece of work. In the years since The American Adventure the maturation process of ESP has been huge. On this album, they up the ante in all aspects of the work, the lyrics are better, musically more challenging and just an all around wonderful album from start to finish.
Contact Music A nice, sunny album for a rainy day. Recommended.
Die Shellsuit We rate this: 7 out of 10. Readers rate this: 10 out of 10 – Life In The Backseat brings back the Britpop which anyone who’s previously heard the band will know that they can do exceptionally well. There is a bit of a difference though, with more keyboards on show hinting at a slight Granddaddy direction, other parts meandering songs which seem to echo the Doves or Elbow. It is the strong keyboard influence however that really stands out, like a fuzzier Joy Division, Electric Soft Parade carve out one or two moments of sunshine from the grey skies we come to expect that our summer will bring.
Epoch Times 3.5/5 – A stunningly eclectic work, covering a variety of styles and eras of alternative music. The album follows this blueprint throughout, but whilst its sound is wilfully diverse, an underlying loyalty to producing catchy hook-laden songs still remains. In this commitment the band’s closest musical relatives are Super Furry Animals…
Feminist Review: The music has a soft, electronic accompaniment that rounds out the music, along with catchy beats, enjoyable guitar and meaningful lyrics. My favorite track on the album is Have You Ever Felt Like It’s Too Late. The lyrics are great and the rhythm is fun and catchy. Electric Soft Parade avoids the pitfalls that some bands fall into, where every song sounds the same.
First Post: A lovely sounding, eclectic album that should get old fans happily returning.
Fuzzy Thoughts You’d be hard pressed to find any of their earlier albums here in the states, but thankfully, No Need To Be Downhearted will see a US release on April 24. Wonderfully eclectic, this album boasts such great tracks as “Life in the Backseat” and “Misunderstanding”. By far the best track on here, which is a carry over from The Human Body EP, is “Cold World”. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be addicted to these guys after one listen.
Ground Control As observers of environment, they have created a presence of mood in the construction of lush and ethereal instrumentation on love, life and everything in between.
The wait between full-length albums has found the group at the helm of their first solo endeavor, with all aspects of production in their hands. No Need To Be Downhearted is the most individual of the group’s musical efforts, and the brothers White have learned a lot within the span of half a decade.
The Electric Soft Parade has created its own landscape – idyllic, atmospheric derivatives of the seaside, the sonic bliss of the outdoors: the innate difference of providing soul rather than sway.
Is This Music 5/5 – Lyrically No Need To Be Downhearted offers a summation of the strange place Electric Soft Parade found themselves in while writing this album. Initially feted as potential ‘next big things’ they were then dropped by their label following the release of their second album. There’s a sense of confusion, loss and even regret but also of hope and joy.
Life In The Backseat with its uplifting, soaring chorus of:
Push all your windows open wide
You’ll never know the world from inside
It could be all over and you’d never have known
If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know suggests:
Our lives they may be miniature
But they are lives
Lives just the same
All point to the potential of every day life as a source of pleasure. This, then, isn’t a bitter, life dealt us a bad hand, we hate the majors album but a nuanced, adventurous, stunningly beautiful, life-affirming work. No Need To Be Downhearted is not only the best work Electric Soft Parade have produced to date but potentially one of the best albums of the year. They have returned with a newfound vigour and enthusiasm best summed up in the up-tempo Cold World:
I want to get rid of this feeling
I want to be a part of everything
Like the way it all should be
Kaffeine Buzz ESP aren’t ashamed to show their influences, with their rock/electronic sonic collages referencing the Flaming Lips and the Super Furry Animals… The general optimism of the album makes sense, as the titular Part 1 and Part 2 of No Need To Be Downhearted open and close the album, respectively.
Manchester Evening News: 4/5 – Here we are with a third album, No Need To Be Downhearted, bringing back with it the layered sound that rendered Holes In The Wall so easy to enjoy… The Whites’ policy this time around seems to be to cram in as many ideas as possible, to take maximum advantage of their present creative fecundity… A rich tapestry of ideas, it generously rewards patience and deserves to reel back in those who previously drifted away.
Metro 3/5 – Electric Soft Parade have had a bizarre career on the fringes of indie rock… No Need To Be Downhearted has the sunny disposition born of a band who seem to be making music under this moniker purely for fun. This means plenty of fuzzy pop – particularly on the naggingly insistent If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know and the soulful Misunderstanding.
MOJO Magazine (click for scan) 4/5 – Full of regret, hard-won wisdom and DIY pop artistry, No Need To Be Downhearted transcends bog-standard indie to build a world of sophisticated melody and ingenious arrangements… Muted brass, Ben Folds joanna, ELO synth showers and Left Banke harmonies belie the record’s home-studio genesis, plonking ESP in the van of a modest progressive pop renaissance recently hinted at by Field Music and The Earlies.
Music Snobbery (from within the article) The big surprise is the new CD from the Electric Soft Parade. It’s entitled No Need To Be Downhearted. Mark my words, this will turn a lot of heads. It’s a musically diverse extravaganza of garage rock fuss mixed with big stadium vocals and space-age electronic blips and bleeps. I’ll have to do a whole post on it because it’s a special listen. You heard it here first.
Neu Magazine: 8/10 – Whatever may be going on outside becomes of secondary importance, as this record envelopes the listener in woozy synths, swirling melodies and joyous Teenage Fanclub harmonies.
New Noise: The danger faced by the White brothers of falling back into the formula which won them the most, and abandoning the more experimental edge of their second album has been widely averted. The sound is raw and ready with a strange and psychedelic element. The strained, organic chords of the keyboard sit in perfect harmony with the shared and complementary vocals. The track order is un-accidental and satisfying.
From the unique opening of the delicate and melancholy title track, the tone of the album is set. It is like a prologue, a note from the author, a dedication, telling the world what this work is going to be about…
Shore Song tinkles away with its rhythmic, plucked guitars like a throwback to another time. Its synthetic dreaminess sits in contrast to the fragile Secrets, which comes across as more about sadness and regret. This theme builds with the later Come Back Inside by which point a certain darkness has crept in.
No Need To Be Downhearted proves two points. Firstly, it is possible for a young band, full of the joys of spring and the awe of messing about and playing music for a living, to progress into producing something truly unusual and intelligent. Secondly, it is also possible to defy the system and go it alone, with the White brothers taking full control of every element of this offering, quite honestly making it all the better for it.
NY Daily News On their strange and wonderful new album, the vocal harmonies wander through unusual modes, while the music roams from major chords to minor and back again with barely a care.
It’s wonderful to hear ESP drift so far afield with their harmonies in a track like Shore Song before reining them in at the last minute to find something pleasing. They follow that trick with a tinkling instrumental piece, Surfacing, that would make great atmospheric film music.
Playmusic (click for scan) 5/5 – Here they’ve rediscovered their original spark in some style. ESP’s calling card is just ferociously catchy pop… If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know kicks off with a chorus of Teenage Fanclub guitars and twitching synths which give way to a flourish of arpeggiated bleeps and the ESP blend of semi nonchalant vocals and wistful, uplifting sentiments and Beach Boys level ambition.
Popmatters 8/10 – It seems like damning with faint praise to call an album “happy”, especially living in troubled times, when we like to point out that we live in troubled times, and doubly so if the album in question is titled No Need to Be Downhearted.
We want gritty, or deep, or dark, or wild, or even real, but happy isn’t the kind of adjective anyone really shoots for when making an artistic statement. Immediately, the guilt by association leads to notions of breezy twee or super-saccharine bubblegum pop. And despite there being something undeniably happy here, in this case those associations couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, the Electric Soft Parade’s latest release is “happy” in a soothing way, an attempt at comfort and encouragement rather than blissful ignorance. No Need to Be Downhearted recognizes that life is full of fears and pitfalls, but it beckons listeners to pick themselves up, survive, and make the situation better. And in these troub… eh, you know the rest.
It’s the direction that the whole disc seems to take on, a little self-help handbook for the brokenhearted but not broken, and the thing that saves it from seeming like a platter of platitudes is the honesty and forthrightness that carries throughout. Scenes of depression and weariness are empathetically delivered only to be lifted up for choruses that rise up into an ether of warm-blanket forgiveness. It’s a clear progression on Woken by a Kiss, which underscores the shift by coating the verse in lush shoegaze guitar, only to break into a wash of chimes and organs chorus. But really, it transcends the track to become the core of the whole album – yeah, life sucks sometimes, but you’ll be okay.
Even when tackling failed relationships and maudlin emotion, ultimately the idea is to pull through and keep in mind that there’s still the chance for something good on the other side. And, yes, fine, in these troubled times, that’s as valuable as anything.
Read the full review to read much praise of their songwriting, probably the most indepth review…
Punk News 3.5/5 – ESP have have awakened new vibrations in their music scores with No Need To Be Downhearted. The new album has more fireworks, panache, and memorable moments that stick in the listener’s mind. Their latest release is music that is designed to be enjoyed. Their atmospherics are melodic and their songs penetrate the listener’s senses…
Q Magazine (click for scan) 3/5 – Brighton indie rockers try the DIY approach: The ringing guitars and trippy synths on If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know benefit from the resulting rough edge, likewise Misunderstanding’s psychedelic vocal harmonies. They appear to have found their level: one of rock’s best kept secrets.
Radio Exile 5/5 – They start with simple pop ideas and expand on them, taking them to wild and new places you never thought they could go. For example, the song, “Misunderstanding” starts off as a sunny bit of pop, which has more than a passing resemblance to Weezer’s “Island In The Sun”, before the song turns on its ear. Early on, you can’t imagine the picture perfect Beach Boy harmonies and rocking guitar solo that are hidden within. The same can be said for “Cold World”, which starts off as a McCartney style piano pop song before seamlessly changing into a jangly indie rock tune complete with swirling guitars. That is what I love so much about this band, they take a simple pop song or concept and deliver it to wonderful places.
If you want to rock out, than you got it. If you want to lay down on your bed with your headphones and explore a whole new world, No Need To Be Downhearted has you covered in that regard as well. Alex and Thomas White prove that pop music is not just something that strikes your ear in a positive way, it can also grab your soul. 5 out of 5 means that a record is “hands down, must own” quality. Go out and get it.
Rant Magazine: This new LP sees Tom and Alex regain total control of their musical vision with staggering success… With their inventive, experimental pop the Electric Soft Parade aren’t afraid of musical reinvention. Refusing to be pigeonholed, No Need To Be Downhearted sees the band explore a myriad of musical styles, each with the same attention to detail and ear for melody. Embracing Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys (Woken By A Kiss), modern indie-disco (If That’s The Case Then I Don’t Know) and sparse acoustic folk (Secrets), the Electric Soft Parade continue to make hugely enjoyable, intellectually stimulating pop music.
Intelligent songwriters with a strong grasp of arrangement and production, the brothers White remain at the forefront of the British independent scene. A DIY release in the purest sense, No Need To Be Downhearted is one of the finest albums of the year so far.
Rock City: Like waking up to find Kate Winslet lying back in your bed with a satisfied smile on her face, The Electric Soft Parade’s album makes you stop in your tracks and ask yourself: “What just happened there?” Far from concede defeat and accept a bit part in the unwritten years of mid-noughties indie, the pair have had another crack of the whip. No Need To Be Downhearted has retained much of the dreamy ambience that was so unvalued on their second record, but it has rediscovered the tunes that saw them hailed as darlings of the dance floor in the first place.
Rock Sound 9/10 – It often seemed a possibility that this album would never appear. Thank goodness it has, though, as this eclipses all their previous work and, indeed, much of this year’s output generally. Geniusly they’ve had the idea of sticking everything ever on this third outing, which means we get several part twinkly symphonies (Shore Song and the two title tracks) sunshiney piano pop (Cold World) Weezer-gone-wonky awesomeness (Misunderstanding) and even the occasional flash of vintage ESP. Their previous paymasters must be gutted; No Need To Be Downhearted is cause for serious joy.
Skyline Press: 7.5/10 – A streamline of light, effects-ridden indie rock zooms along with some of the most paper thin electric guitars that I have ever heard. Keyboard synth plays an integral part in the foundation of the songs just as much as the ever important vocals, guitars, and drums. The vocals are soft and even hold a melancholy tone for each word expressed. The twinkling atmospheres and soaring starry night episodes that the album creates are a nice distraction to keep you daydreaming in your seat.
The British flare and style are also apparent and they show off creative bursts of thought and energy. Highly metaphoric lyrics appear as thick illusions of story telling and fantasy. Harmony is what we look for and we find it here on almost every track. The lyrics are solid and intelligent. The soft melodies that follow along the day dreamy songs are also seductive. Clear and crisp production, especially with indie music, leads to an impressive product.
Smother Mag: Editors Pick – Piano rock with huge choruses and atmospheric melodies melds to produce No Need To Be Downhearted – an ambitious pop album that some will find completely daunting and others will not even be able to place in the annals of incredible pop. Indie pop-rock that is this fantastic is such a rare commodity that no one truly knows what to do when they first hear dance-rock rhythms mixed with alternative pop and Brit-pop anthems. Perfect.
Stranger Mag: No Need To Be Downhearted is totally DIY, no fancy studio, no budget, just the Brighton Boys on their own and at their best… Peppered with political lyrics, indie irony and massive crescendos it’s a CD for the summer. Tracks like ‘Misunderstanding’ and ‘If That’s The Case Then I Don’t Know’ will drag even the laziest listener into a jive, while the subtler sounds of ‘Come Back’ and ‘Shore Song’ are unashamed growers.
ESP’s chug-chug rhythms and laconic lyrics are unique, however you can’t help but draw comparisons to bands like Elbow. Nevertheless it’s a summertime classic and we can only hope it does better than their second album… because it bloody deserves to.
Subba-Cultcha: 4/5 – Electric Soft Parade live up to all expectations. Electro-garage prog-pop anyone? Their expansive follow up to 2002’s Holes In The Wall polarized opinions. Alienating some and thrilling others, The American Adventure left the music critics dry mouthed in anticipation about where their third venture might take them. It was worth the wait, because ESP’s third effort is more than a bit special.
No Need To Be Downhearted marries ambition with popular appeal. Few bands can retain such sweet-toothed melodies while shrugging aside traditional structures with merry disdain. However, ESP manage to package their progressive leanings (without compromise) in delightful indie-pop sheen, laminating every track on this record.
Suddenly we find ourselves admiring their lyrical prowess. Have You Ever Felt Like It’s Too Late hits home like an emotional scud, while Secrets, sings of vulnerability in lethargic Elbow-esq harmony: Keep your feelings well hid – they will only get trodden on. Moments of tenderness and unexpected bitterness are recounted through leisurely vocals that trawl behind the wake of guitar hooks and synth warbles. While White’s genteel rhetoric is clearly the rudder on most of his songwriting, there are moments where it feels as though his voice anchors any potential eruption of pent up euphoria.
Contradictory emotions are thoroughly ingrained throughout this record. But there is harmony in the paradox – and it is this harmony that lights No Need To Be Downhearted’s sonic halo shining far ahead of the rest of the pack.
The Fire Note Like so many others their sophomore effort was met with some criticism. Harnessing that criticism into positive motivation, The Electric Soft Parade are back with No Need To Be Downhearted, which is an album that finds them reinventing their sound and showing off why they were so loved in the first place.
The Fly: Part 1 – Part 2 (click for scans) 3.5/5 – The White Brothers are natural beneficiaries of the ardent magpie-ism of the late, great Boo Radleys… Here they evoke everything from the chamber-gospel of Spiritualized (Secrets) to the cosmo-jaunts of Robert Wyatt (Cold World) and the xlyphonic of Stereolab (Life In The Backseat) fluctuating from scuzz-synth disco dirtiness to digi-data delirium (just like your Grandaddy used to make) and Tyrannosaur sized glam-grinds in the space of If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know.
This feels an altogether more organic return to source, bold not only in its experimentation but in its distinct, long-missed songwriting shapes.
The Line Of Best Fit The record swings between these passages of slow and beautiful meanderings and guitar charged pop anthems. Who’d have thought they had it in them! An unlikely comeback then, but one that should be praised and cherished. A very British band that’s come back from the brink and rediscovered their lust for life and music. This could easily become the soundtrack to the promisingly sunny summer; the power pop anthems for the evenings and the blissed out come downs for the morning after.
The Sun Rating ***1/2 – If you’ve never heard the Brighton two-piece then their sound is a bit difficult to explain. Sort of a slightly less camp cross between ELO and The Feeling is a fair stab… bright points include Misunderstanding, If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know and Cold World/Starry Night. If you like your light-rock a bit different then give this a whirl.
The Sunday Telegraph (click for scan) 4/5 – “Tell you what I think isn’t half bad” I can imagine musos confessing guiltily to one another at year’s end, “that Electric Soft Parade album”.
The Sunday Times: 4/5 – (Mercury) nominated for their least satisfying album (Holes in the Wall); its 2003 successor, The American Adventure, saw them filling out their sound, since when they’ve produced one further EP. One of its tracks, the sublime Cold World, is dusted down, fitting snugly in among new beauties such as Shore Song and If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know. Perfect pastoral nu-pop.
The Times: 4/5 – This album throbs with kaleidoscopic intent, less Britpop than the kind of surprise turn associated with Super Furry Animals. Take the opening title track, which sets the tone of an aching Bacharach ballad, with the line “don’t get caught up, be the person and the people that you love all your life” repeated like a self-help mantra. Or the current single, If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know, whose trebly guitar figure and motoring beat would flatter, say, Kaiser Chiefs.
Impressively, Tom and Alex play every single instrument themselves, adding and subtracting layers where necessary. Shore Song is whispery folk, with a gorgeous, twinkling coda, while Woken By A Kiss – one of several tracks that look to America’s West Coast for spiritual and aural guidance – is luscious psych-pop. All of a sudden, the studio is their oyster. On the intensifying piano rocker Cold World, over a string of Beach Boys-style harmonies, Tom encapsulates everything that has gone wrong, and right: “I wanna get rid of this feeling/ I want to be a part of everything”. Forget the return of Genesis — this is the comeback of the year.
The Tripwire Now and then a band brings back that glorious feeling of a real, well-crafted album, which is something that Electric Soft Parade has done with No Need To Be Downhearted. The album is book ended by No Need To Be Downhearted Parts 1 & 2, giving it a true start and finish. Part 1 is a melancholy opener, with little more than piano and some very Ben Folds-esque vocals. A fuzzy bass line and some organ adds a bit of color to the track, growing as it leads into the upbeat Life in The Backseat. From track to track, the brothers White repeatedly show off their masterful skill of balancing slick pop with moments of crunchy rock.
Sounding like the best parts of The Beatles and Super Furry Animals, Thomas and Alex White have truly delivered this time.
This Is Nottingham: 4 stars – The brothers play almost everything here in addition to engineering and producing the project. The title track makes for a deliberately low-key opener but they get into their stride on the Squeeze-style bounce of Life In The Backseat. Woken By A Kiss is a woozy slice of psychedelic pop and they come up with a copper-bottomed indie dancefloor-filler on the standout If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know. Misunderstanding is classy melodic guitar pop while the perky piano-led Cold World could be by Ben Folds. A very solid collection of indie pop; maybe it’s third time lucky for the boys.
Thosecritics 8/10 – Imagine if The Strokes wrote more sophisticated chord progressions to supplement their garage band appeal. That’s what The Electric Soft Parade does on songs like Cold World, which sounds like a deceptively simple pop song, but takes interesting routes from A to B. The rest of the album pretty much follows that formula as well, never going where you thought it would go musically. From the late night rave feel of If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know, to the energetic Life In The Backseat, this record explores various territories, blending genres and influences at will.
Time Out New York: Would the Electric Soft Parade peter out before having a go at the States? Far from it: No Need to Be Downhearted could be the band’s U.S. breakthrough. The excellent, self-produced album maintains ESP’s reverb-heavy, future-folk sound while cycling through angsty rock and mellow balladry, a tension-and-release pattern of struggling with self-doubt. “Someday / You’ll come out of this okay,” Tom White promises himself on the chorus of “Woken by a Kiss,” a sprawler that jumps from sweeping melodies to dreamy interludes. On the explosive single “If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know,” everything the Electric Soft Parade does well falls into place: Fuzzed-out guitar riffs balance with bright, jangly ones; vocal harmonies add pop sheen; and the whole thing ends in glorious distortion. Tracks like this will make American listeners glad the band stuck it out.
Tiny Mix Tapes For months on end, I shunned the words of people like Twain, Thoreau, and “Author Unknown” in favor of daily doses of uplifting lyrics and music by Misters Alex and Tom White, who go by the cleverer moniker The Electric Soft Parade, to soothe my forever-broken spirit. It did the trick until I wore out my copies of Holes in the Wall and The American Adventure. Last summer’s stop-gap EP, The Human Body, was certainly a wonderful surprise. It quelled my loneliness for a brief period, but left me wanting more.
My days of dread will once again slip away because Better Looking Records will release a new Electric Soft Parade album. By the title alone, No Need To Be Downhearted, I know the band is once again singing directly to me! Be gone blues!
TNT (click for scan) 3/5 – No Need To Be Downhearted is punchy and melodic with flashes of brilliance…
Twisted Ear: 4/5 – The intriguing and most exciting element of this album is that it fails to produce a track that is not worth talking about. Every part of the record has its own individual charm that is the ESP stamp – not doing the same thing again, not filling in the gaps. Shore Song dances and drifts away before the crack of Misunderstanding brings you right back up to the dance floor for a smiley-smiley indie sing-along. It will find itself on repeat on people’s stereos for some time to come whilst providing an ideal segue before the darker and slow Secrets which lends itself as an ideal lead-in to the irresistible Cold World – the only track to survive The Human Body EP but with an additional guitar outro thrown in for good measure.
The Electric Soft Parade are back, and they are better than ever to slay the music industry all over again. Likelihood is that they will fail but just like the inspiration behind the album title though (The Fall), they will undoubtedly keep going and just get better further along the ride.
Ultimate Guitar 7.7/10 – The songs are a music feast projecting so many more textures than any of the band’s previous releases… The lyrics have a private meaning, like portions taken from someone’s diary. No Need To Be Downhearted outshines ESP’s previous albums which include their 2002 debut Holes In The Wall, their 2003 sophomore disc The American Adventure, and their 2005 EP The Human Body.
Uncut Magazine (click for scan) 3/5 – Their latest, entirely DIY effort is surprisingly invigorated. One suspects that success no longer bothers the White brothers – a further reason to cheer them on, surely.
Yahoo Canada: Electric Soft Parade get plenty weird on this Do-It-Yourself collection of mechanical beats, fuzzy analog synths, distorto-guitars and trippy song patterns that make something like Woken By A Kiss or If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know feel less like tunes than field trips to other galaxies. Downhearted is their third album, following up on The Human Body EP. It rolls out as a complex meandering through these alternate worlds where an acoustic ballad like Shore Song finds an electric plug in the middle of a wheatfield and Misunderstanding suddenly comes shuttling through as if there’s still an AM radio out there worth listening to.
Yahoo UK: 8/10 – Ambition doesn’t have to be number one singles, Wembley tour dates and – who knows, one day, please God – featuring in a Pepsi Cola advert. Ambition can be modest and humble, can be the tiring, near mundane search for that simple sliding key change, that new and beautiful sound, the ability to bruise a tender heart. In which case, The Electric Soft Parade are as ambitious as they come.
Far from insulting the listener through condescension or banality, The Electric Soft Parade pay the great compliment of creating music that is dense, subtle and layered, filled with new textures and deft touches to repay repeat listening. Take the gorgeous opener, No Need To Be Downhearted, with its intimate, sliding vocals, before a sudden, stirring organ blows the song wide open, or the way Secrets is almost skeletal and hushed before an incredibly graceful blast of brass lifts it to its close.
What makes this an album to warm the heart rather than drain it, is in the heartfelt, emotive, colour-drenched sound. There’s the tumbling, gleeful melodies that carry Life In The Backseat along, or the fizzy synths that underpin the chiming Strokes-riff of If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know. Best of all is the swooning Woken By A Kiss, featuring the kind of dense, feedback-drenched loveliness that characterised what Brits called shoegazing and the Americans better termed dream-pop, drifting between drug-stupoured sleepiness and sudden thrusts of guitar.
For the most part No Need To Be Downhearted is a gorgeous record – big music full of small touches. It might sell only ten copies, but The Electric Soft Parade would still win the war of ambition most worth winning.