BLUE STATES: First Steps Into… (Memphis Industries)


Posted on Sep 21st 2007 01:00 am

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Blue States: First Steps Into…

First Steps Into…

Industries 2007
13 Tracks. 47mins16secs

The history of Blue States has been a much more tumultuous affair than the band’s music. Originally the solo project of Brighton-based Andy Dragazis, Blue States got caught up in the chillout craze of the late nineties with a series of EPs and a debut album, Nothing Changes Under The Sun, released in 2000 on Memphis Industries, which showed a penchant for largely instrumental down tempo compositions and cinematic orchestrations. Determined to prove that Blue States was not just another act on a rapidly fading scene, Dragazis recruited the services of vocalist Ty Bulmer and put together a live band to take his instrumental pop to a new level, with a second album, Man Mountain, released in 2002. Following Bulmer’s departure, Dragazis was joined by Chris Carr (vocals and guitar) and Jon Chandler (durms), and released The Soundings, an album on which the band showed a much more indie pop approach, but tensions developed during the tour that followed and the band eventually imploded. Dragazis went on to produce a handful of records, including the deliciously Spector-driven Pipettes album of last year.

Nowadays, Dragazis is once again sole master on board Blue States, and his first album in three years is at once a pleasing return to the sweeping instrumentals of the early days and a move toward much more sophisticated production forms. The album opens with the quietly majestic Allies, which sees Dragazis working a beautifully evocative melodic theme over an expensive backdrop of guitars, drums and strings. Things drop a few notches with the next few tracks. First Steps… Last Stand, and Holding Ground are nice enough, but the lack of clear melody tends to drain the attention away from the music itself, and The Electric Complement shows similar signs until the pace eventually picks up pace again toward the end. Gaining Time is a much more rewarding piece altogether. Drawing on a much stronger melody and building up an equally strong orchestration to support it, Dragazis gives the first real sign that he hasn’t lost any of the panache that carried his debut album so well. Look To Your Laurels and Down The Days are perfect slices of crystalline dream pop, and the album even takes a slight anthemic turn with Red And Shine.

The influence of Dragazis’s work with the Pipettes is at times very palpable, never more so than on the groovy What Can Be Done To Right A Wrong. One of the most upbeat compositions presented here, it benefits of the same sparklingly pop-infused string arrangements and melodic flamboyance, yet its instrumental status is in no way detrimental. Closing track Last Of Old England may not be quite as colourful, but Dragazis injects another dose of orchestral grandeur here and manages to conclude on a high.

With this album, Andy Dragazis seems to struggle to find a purpose for his music and at times comes unstuck with too much form for very little content. Yet, when he combines superb arrangements and cinematic melodies, the old magic is back and Blue States once again rides the wave of excellence.


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