hat do you get when you take Pulp and remove Jarvis Cocker’s unimaginably clever lyrics and heavenly way with a melody? Hmm, you’re right, there are too many answers to that one. And anyway, Cedars is only a 50% match; the first side of the album is a semi-skilled replication of Pulp et al.’s shining sounds, while the second side is pure lyrical trash, fortuitously teamed with melodies that are slightly better.
Honestly, the first few listens are the worst; Cedars grows on you to the extent that you get past its often-horrendous lyrics after a while and learn to appreciate its strongest moments. Perhaps without the feeling of obligation (to give an album several listens) that comes with reviewing, however, such a phenomenon would not occur. And perhaps it would be for the better.
“Almost the Same” opens the album strongly, melding chugging guitars with light keyboards to form a truly excellent, if unoriginal, Britpop anthem. The lyrics are unsatisfying, playing like a simpler, lazier “Disco 2000”, but this is forgivable for the moment. “The Mind Is Evil” follows with Magical Mystery Tour-esque strings and keyboards; here, once again, it’s the laziness of the lyrics that weigh down the song. Except the lyrics and the music are each a step down from the song’s predecessor.
With few exceptions, I could repeat that last sentence throughout the entire album. Cedars’ nadir comes with the DEATH-inducing pair of “Keep Smiling” and “It’s All Too Much.” The former cynically feigns advice along the lines of its namesake with the childish melodrama (as well as the juvenile songwriting) of Pablo Honey-era Radiohead. The latter is still more pathetic, and perhaps one of the worst songs of the year, indulging in even more immature self-pity, while apparently taking quite the stand against melody. Now there’s a revolution I want to be part of!
If you can ignore the theatrical lyrics and the music to match, you will probably be able to enjoy Cedars as a decent, occasionally very good Britpop album that, for better or worse, does try to be different. At least they don’t ape Jarvis Cocker all the time. Wait, no…that was the good part of the album!
Reviewed by: Kareem Estefan
Reviewed on: 2003-11-05