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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 63 - 11/30/01

Sister Sonny
The Bandit Lab
Rec 90

Musical talent is a wonderful thing. While I gain some reassurance from lo-fi bands that being adept at playing your instrument is not strictly necessary in order to make great music, if you have a wide range of skills you can stretch further and reach higher.

Take Norway's Sister Sonny. Following last year's critically acclaimed While Others Dance, Sister Sonny, The Bandit Lab has been a long time in the making, and the band have clearly been exploring numerous musical styles and sounds to arrive at this 70-minute 17-song album. Largely successful, but a little wearing to listen to as a whole, there is plenty here to enjoy and return to.

In particular, the opening quartet of tracks are excellent, with atmosphere and melody to spare. However, to then hear the absurd glam-rock of Stupid and the silver fox is like being shaken awake by a drunken, unfashionable uncle. Not good. Thankfully the album picks up again with the eerie fairground sounds of Neon party and the sly groove of Leonard in drag, but loses its way again by veering into a sound that is a little too close to vacuous trip-hop for my taste. Later songs, although not bad, do not really persuade you to hang around for the full 70 minutes. Being a big fan of albums that are coherent entities rather than merely collections of songs, I don't find The Bandit Lab wholly convincing.

It's frustrating to hear a record so full of good ideas yet in need of more focus to make it truly great. In that sense The Bandit Lab is an apt title: these wayward musical adventurers have dabbled successfully in sonic chemistry, but need a little more discipline to scoop the musical Nobel prize.

Copyright © 2001 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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