|It's been there. That little voice of revolution. Through albums by Tindersticks, Lambchop, Royal City, Mountain Goats. All good enough to see it off. But not this time. This time the revolution starts and Caramel Jack are first up in front of the firing squad. Enough. No more sparse, downbeat pop. How many more bands can there be? It's almost as if it were some sort of top secret Simon Fuller side-project, a hedge against the collapse of the boy band market. A guitar, some strings, an arch vocal/lyric. Aaargh!
The album promised more. Songs from an imaginary show? "Original cast recording"? A glimmer of hope, crushed by the competent, familiar opening songs. Very little theatre here. Halfway through, an attempt to raise the stakes. Some triphop on "the Californian". It serves only to remind that Portishead triumphed by the sheer character of Beth Gibbons' voice. The carnival theme finally kicks in on Elephants. But pluck any Tom Waits album from the large pile and you'll hear this done twice as well.
So Caramel Jack's all trussed up on the pole. I'm just about to apologise for having been far more generous about much worse albums before pulling the trigger. But what's this? "The Lady Vanishes". Formed from the same stuff as the earlier songs (quite literally) and yet so much more. A lightness of touch. A sinister humour. Slapstick horns. Answering male and female choruses. It's a marvel. Curse you Caramel Jack. You're off the hook. But I'll be waiting.