Plush Underfed

[Sea Note; 2004]

Styles: indie pop, blue-eyed soul, singer/songwriter
Others: Burt Bacharach, Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro

Six years after the soul-crushingly sad More You Becomes You, Plush finally has a follow-up LP, Underfed, available in the US. But it arrives only after much tribulation. In reality, the recordings comprising the album were never intended for public distribution. Rather they were meant as demos for a full-blown studio album, Fed, which has been recorded and released, though only in Japan. As the story goes, no US or European labels were willing to pay the high studio bills incurred in the recording of Fed. So now, for music fans unwilling to pay excruciatingly high amounts of money for a Japanese import, the songs of Fed have been released in their nascent versions as Underfed.

So much story and hype surrounding an album can often mean that the songs just don't measure up to the myth, but in this case they absolutely do. Most welcomely, the production is not entirely bare bones. There are plenty of drums/bass/guitar/piano arrangements mixed with enough synth embellishments that one can easily comprehend the more lush orchestrations for which Plush mastermind Liam Hayes was striving.

Hayes reedy voice, like on prior Plush releases, evokes the image of a fragile man with a broken heart, especially on the mellower songs, like the piano-driven "Blown Away" and the soaring ballad "No Education," which complements his vocals with an aching mellotron and mournful woodwinds. But beyond the somber tone that underlies every song are some genuinely funky '70s-style rhythms on "Whose Blues" and the forceful soul of "I've Changed My #." In those moments, Hayess voice, while still liable to crack at any moment, takes on a convincing swagger that, when contrasted with the more down-and-out moments, gives this collection of songs some truly soulful dynamics. This is a man who has been battered and bruised, but he's a survivor. Given the hardships of his career as Plush, Hayes has earned a survivor status. Let's just hope that it doesn't take another six years before his US fans are graced with another release.

1. Whose Blues
2. I've Changed My #
3. Blown Away
4. So Blind
5. Greyhound Bus Station
6. No Eduacation
7. Sound of S.F.
8. Born Together
9. Unis
10. Whose Blues Anyway
11. What'll We Do
12. Having It All
13. Fed (Intro)
14. Fed
15. The Woods