Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Philip Selway- Familial

Phil Selway is the most underrated drummer around. He stands in the shadow in the world's biggest band playing fiddle to Thom Yorke, the world's greatest lyricist, and Johnny Greenwood, a guy who has found ways to get the most out of his guitar in a Kevin Shields like manner. Drumming for the generations most important band might be enough for some of us, for Selway, he deserves more and gets more.

Over the span of ten tracks and just over a half hour, "Familal" doesn't overstay its welcome. For a side project from a drummer not known for much else, it's a reminder of the talent of not just Selway, but the band he backs. If that wasn't enough, enlisted are Pat Sansone and Glenn Kotche (the second most underrated drummer) from Wilco, frequent session musician Lisa Germano, and Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg. Quite the murderer's row for a side project.

"By Some Miracle" opens the album and is a sign of things to come, following a simple formula that's shared on the rest of the tracks. Acoustic guitar, backing vocals, and Selway's great voice make it a tune that actually ranks up with the best that Radiohead has written. "Beyond Reason" follows and sounds more like Radiohead's "The Gloaming" with an acoustic guitar and no jazz breakdown, the band influence is there and pushes it to being the great track it is on the album.

"A Simple Life" and "All Eyes on You" are standard singer songwriter affairs, full with Nick Drake soft appeal and beautiful rich melody. "The Ties That Bind Us", originally featured on 7 Worlds Collide's "The Sun Came Out" last year is another highlight with stand up bass accompanying Selway's guitar and voice making it the stand out track on this album.

Unfortunately the album suffers from being top-heavy and the second half doesn't quite deliver to what preceeded it."Patron Saint" through "Don't Look Down" fall into each other without warning, making it hard to distinguish where one ends and begins. Album closer "The Witching Hour" all but makes up for it as it stands as a beautiful ballad and showcases the teriffic songwriting many of us did not know Selway was capable of.

"Familial" isn't anything we haven't heard before. It's standard acoustic affair, but rather than taint it, it's a nice surprise to find that the talents of the best band on the planet don't just lie on Mr. Yorke and Mr. Greenwood. In some ways, "Familal" is just as every bit satisfying as Yorke's "The Eraser" and Greenwood's soundtrack to "There Will Be Blood". It won't overshadow Selway's drumming, but maybe it'll make us appreciate it a little more.

*** 1/2 out of *****

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