Trembling Blue Stars Broken By Whispers

In this latest effort by England's Bob Wratten we are treated to a wonderful array of shimmering pop gems. Although this is his first North American release, it is his third as Trembling Blue Stars, behind which lies a history that stretches back over ten years, starting with the Field Mice and continuing with Northern Picture Library. Although critic faves, these projects were short lived due to personnel problems and the demise of their label (Sarah). To ease his sorrows, he started the Trebling Blue Stars as a temporary project for the new Sarah spin-off label, Shinkansen. As Wratten describes it, "For want of a better word, it's a solo project, really - although I've always wanted to turn it into a band. The first album was the first time I've done an album where everything was up to me. With the Field Mice - even though I wrote the songs - I always felt that I should ask someone. I went into the studio with [long-time producer] Ian Catt and made exactly the kind of album I wanted to make, and it took off from there. As far as [Broken] is concerned - we treated it more like a group. I'm still hung up on the idea of a group - a little gang." On Broken By Whispers, the little gang have created a smooth, yet dark pop sound, something akin to bands like the Dream Academy, Scotland's Trash Can Sinatras, or during its brighter moments, the Lightning Seeds. The sweeping instrumentation and his clever songwriting combine beautifully on "Ripples" and "To Leave It Now." A somewhat less "upbeat" record than his previous work, Wratten says "I was reacting to earlier records that I'd done. I was thinking 'I don't want it to be too poppy.' Now I love pop music, and I want to do pop things in the future, but we tended to put some of the stranger stuff on the album." One hopes that the increasing acceptance of this calibre of music, especially on labels like Sup Pop, will help wean some of the North American indie crowd away from their guitar-rock obsession. (Sub Pop)