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The Off White Album

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Album Review

Newell's second widely distributed album (he self-released some tapes under his own name in the 1980s) is a bit more precious and ornate than The Greatest Living Englishman, particularly when the songs employ string arrangements. At these times especially, this sounds a bit like Elvis Costello's unplugged/string quartet releases. Newell's phrasing, too, is getting more deliberate in a way that also faintly recalls Costello, though Newell doesn't sound as calculated in his delivery. As far as the songs go, it's largely more of the same: witty, affecting vignettes about British characters, simultaneously evoking a glorious past and a somewhat unsettling, frustrating present. It's not his best record, but it's still more inventive, intelligent British pop than what you hear from most other such artists that try to carry this kind of thing off. [The 2003 reissue of this album added two amusing spoken word bonus tracks, both taken from Newell's book This Little Ziggy, and a CD-R enhanced track of Newell doing "The Jangling Man" live in January 1994, with Captain Sensible on guitar.]


Born: 1953 in Wivenhoe, Essex, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of the great eccentrics of modern English pop/rock, Martin Newell's songs are recommended listening for anyone who enjoys the peculiarly British eccentricities of Ray Davies, Andy Partridge, Syd Barrett, and the like. His grasp of the pop hook was second to few throughout the 1980s and '90s; his arrangements favor a guitar jangle but are usually infused with a whimsical eclecticism full of goofy sound effects and unusual garnishes of unexpected percussion and string instruments. His voice is...
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The Off White Album, Martin Newell
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