Six years after No Need To Be Downhearted, Electric Soft Parade’s White brothers go back to what they do very well: music that’s a bit psych, but thoroughly pop. The first two songs set the tone of the album: ‘The Sun Never Sets Around Here’ and ‘Summertime In My Heart’ are über-pop but well, you get used to it, just like you might actually enjoy pre-ganja Beatles songs. Yet the lyrics come across as being rather cheesy, from: “The sun never shined on me until you came around” to “And when I look in your eyes, suddenly it’s summertime in my heart”. However catchy these choruses are, the love/good weather metaphor is as old as the world.
Yet “sunny” is perhaps the best adjective to apply to the album, which might precisely be the problem. Lord knows we Frenchmen are bemused by how much it rains in England! It sounds as if the decade-old band has not learnt much from Albion’s harsh winters.
Well, you might find something close to greyness in a song like ‘The Corner Of Highdown And Montefiore': its four minutes of languorous “I won’t forgets” are indeed quite dull… Yet it would also not be true to say that Idiots! is purley a land of milk and honey: it also gives a fair share to themes of separation or other darker sides of life. The first single, ‘Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone’, a nicely jazzy tune, is curiously laid back for a song that deals with the indomitable loneliness of humanity’s fragile place in the universe.
Much of Electric Soft Parade’s music has an undeniable beauty to it, but Thomas White sings, oddly enough, too well, lacking the fragility of Nick Drake, the androgyny of Stuart Murdoch, not to mention Jim Morrison’s virility.
Still, it would be untrue to say there’s no pleasure to take from this album. ‘Mr Mitchell’ is a gentle, eccentric number in the vein of 60s Kinks, while ‘Lily’ has a real psychedelic swagger. Elsewhere, there are moments of sheer beauty, like the aerial chorus of the title track, though those are drowned in a sea of good intentions.
Idiots! is an excellent journey through the more poppy instincts of Electric Soft Parade – but, Mr White, can’t you take up gurgling acid or something, and stop singing so well! – Jean Marcel Maillard