Velvet: Where Are The People?
Velvet's "Where are the People?" is a pop record. It's easy to listen to and fun but ends up sounding, like so many pop records, a little inane. The dexterous Jay Manley is the mastermind behind Velvet, contributing not only vocals and guitar, but organ, piano, schoenhut, casio, clarinet, sax, and tambourine to Velvet's hodge-podge of instrumentation. Talk about a one-man band. Luckily for him, Jane Francis takes over on bass as well as the vocals for some songs. The duo appear to employ the multi-drummer approach, crediting Rob Hay, Chad Heye, and Richard Arp's contributions to the album.
Manley and Francis harmonize gracefully on many of the tracks, and their strong singing also moves things along smoothly solo. Theirs are voices you like to hear; light, lilting, and sunny, they make you want to sing along, but unfortunately, don't really force you to think about what you're singing. Many of Velvet's songs suffer from the nonsensical-pop-syndrome, a disease afflicting many pop bands that don't seem to sing about anything of substance. Songs like "19th century bicycle" and "My friend fur" come to mind. Nevertheless, Velvet manages to pump out some good lines and images in many other tracks. Images of innocence and childhood resurface in the majority of the songs on the record, a la Belle and Sebastian. Songs like "February," odes to girls with "sandy brown hair" who are in "my sixth grade class," summon up the Sesame Street feelings of rainbows, butterflies and happy innocence. They stand in contrast to tracks like "Sorry" and "Love-knot absolution" which explore more adult themes of trust and betrayal in love. Velvet examine love at all stages and ages in their songs. "February" continues with a description of a boy making a Valentines Day card for the brown-haired girl. Lines like "I'm peeling Elmer's from my fingers/making a card that she just can't resist" and "I want to give her a juicy kiss right on the lips" capture the essence of the sixth-grade crush. "Love-knot absolution" begins with the provocative lyrics, "secretly he loved she was a wreck/fingers on the dove/hands 'round the neck," sublimely capturing the complex exchanges of power and emotion that are present in all romantic relationships.
Velvet have talent lyrically and musically, and more importantly they have range and diversity, yet "Where Are the People?" just makes me wish they would employ it towards worthier ends.
All content © LEFT OFF THE DIAL 2001-2005. All rights reserved.