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A Tale of Two Cities

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Album Review

Mr. Hudson & the Library accomplish at least two great things on their debut record, A Tale of Two Cities. First, since there's no lack of musicians to chronicle life in England (taking in everyone from Arctic Monkeys to Robbie Williams), a newcomer can't timidly knock at the door, but instead has to thrust it open and stride right through. Hudson himself is as wry and witty as the best, dispensing excellent cutting lyrics that only occasionally admit to some affection ("You'll never be a cover girl, just facing facts, your face isn't right, but I'll never want another girl"). He wrenches a pair of vocal standards into the 21st century, turning "On the Street Where You Live" on its head ("And oh! What a nauseous feeling") and wryly updating "Everything Happens to Me" ("I've e-mailed and I've phoned, sent a text message or two/You told me to piss off, for that respect is due"). Secondly, they understand that musical economy can pay unexpected rewards. Imagine Jarvis Cocker and Pulp subsisting musically on as little as possible: a few bass drum hits and electronic snares, swinging (and surprisingly bruising) basslines only on the choruses, skeletal piano or keyboards that force listeners to play connect the dots. This method not only gives additional focus to melodies or musical ideas, but changes the perspective when a production suddenly flowers (as on "Ask the DJ"). Hudson has a surprising past as a grime beatmaker, and it's this quality in action that makes Mr. Hudson & the Library so interesting; the songwriting material may not be worthy of Steven Morrissey or Paul Weller just yet, but the production is note-perfect. For those who can't decide between the Streets' Mike Skinner and the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, Hudson has the answer: "I'd like to think there'll come a day when drum machines and troubadours smile, when grime MCs give away their MPCs."


Formed: England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

This UK band’s distinctive name marked them out as an act to investigate following their appearance on the music scene in 2006. ‘Mr Hudson’ is Ben, whose roots are in the rhythm section but who fronts the band with his conversational melodies. Hudson’s growing frustration with guitar music led him to hip-hop, where the influence of Jay-Z and the Roots took hold, expressed through an often romantic Englishness in the lyrical content that goes some way to defining the band’s sound. Hudson’s Library...
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A Tale of Two Cities, Mr Hudson & The Library
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