Ashby Power Ballads

Ashby, a collaboration between Boston musicians Evelyn Pope and William Cowie, do not favour the complicated lifestyle. There is no hidden message lying under the surface for those who dare to look, and I don’t imagine for one second that if you play this backwards you would run out and butcher your family. Their music is simple yet sophisticated pop and that’s just fine. It is obvious that they’ve spent some time listening to Saint Etienne’s recorded output, but they’ve also picked up the collected works of Burt Bacharach, a couple of Antonio Carlos Jobim CDs and some assorted ’60s movie soundtracks too. They take their influences and blend them together, retaining that original essence, but add some modern production values as well. The tunes are catchy and the vocals are nice and smooth but there is something just a little too clinical about the production that makes it curiously unaffecting. (I don’t suppose you are expected to get particularly emotionally involved with the material, but the coldness is off-putting.) Power Ballads might just be disposable pop, but it the best kind of disposable pop, so if you still yearn for the glory days of Saint Etienne, this will fill the gap nicely. (Marina)