Lawrence Arabia : The Sparrow
The Sparrow reintroduces us to James Milne’s mysterious persona, Lawrence Arabia. He marks a new direction with a new look, regenerating from hippie sailor to the pensive, well-groomed crooner of his recent promo shots (or did he just have a shave?). Even more telling is the pasted-on brain and mustache featured on the album’s cover, suggesting this is a more serious Lawrence Arabia, though with a dash of pastiche. But let’s move on from observations on facial hair and cut to the chase here – is this as good as the New Zealander’s previous album, 2009‘s Chant Darling?
While there’s certainly no Apple Pie Bed equivalent here, the harmonious opener Travelling Shoes comes close in terms of catchiness. Throughout the album, Milne adopts Scott Walker as his muse, but it’s not the latter-day avant-garde Walker being resurrected here (thankfully), more the classic ‘60s version. This, considering Milne’s past work, doesn’t come as a huge departure, though there is a delicate shift from immediate, hook-laden pop to a more refined sound that allows Milne to get swept up in his sumptuous orchestral surroundings. Despite fun titles like Early Kneecappings and The Bisexual, it takes a little longer to connect to his tragicomic character studies and fully appreciate his skills as a wry wordsmith on this occasion. But once you’ve warmed to it, The Sparrow reels you in with its charm and wit.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best Track: Travelling Shoes
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