Friday, 21st September 2018. 11:37:23am ET
Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock Julian Tulip's Licorice- The Umbrella Party


Artist: Julian Tulip's Licorice
CD Title: The Umbrella Party
Label: Bloodflower
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 3/22/04

The Umbrella Party by Julian Tulip's Licorice, the follow-up to Sulk, is a difficult record to pin down. Perhaps most comparable to Ingrid Chavez, Julian Tulip's Licorice's interesting blend of spoken word, layered vocals, atmospheric electronics, driving electronic rhythms, and rock elements also shows hints of artists like David Sylvian, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, The Associates, and Severed Heads with occasional bursts of Bowie-esque theatricality. However, despite its often genre-defying blend of elements, sometimes heavy layering, reliance on electronics, and intentional quirkiness and peculiarity, the album often seems oddly organic and minimal and is ultimately fairly accessible.

The Umbrella Party's 19 tracks, only 16 of which are listen in the album booklet, range from brief spoken word intros/interludes to experimental pieces of noise, vocals, and swirling electronics to full-blown moody alternative rock/pop tracks, each fading or flowing into the next to create one 46 minute work. While the album's atmospheric elements are generally fairly ethereal in nature as well as surreal if not downright abstract, it is often anchored by its intrinsic pop sensibilities and endearing, sometimes even catchy, pop melodies. The vocals and lyrical content (comprised largely of poetry, seemingly of the train-of-though and modern "beat" variety used to varying degrees of success) often seem to be the focus of the album. However, with the exception of the spoken word pieces and sparser musical tracks, they tend to be buried under the music, highly layered, and, more often than not, at least partially unintelligible unless you're really paying attention, usually turning them into more of a melodic/musical accent rather than a straightforward message.

While The Umbrella Party seems to want to be defined by its quirky spoken word artistry, it's really the album's more pop-oriented moments that stand out. The danceable "Dolls Aren't Supposed to Bite" and the equally danceable bass-driven new wave rocker "My Invisible Ashtray" are arguably the album's two best tracks (and are, in fact, almost good enough in themselves to justify buying this album). Other standouts include the great vocal melodies of the album's synth organ-centered title track "Crumb (The Umbrella Party)", the odd and moody piano-accented "Soup", and the quirky piano ballad "Sticking Pins In Francis". All three unlisted tracks are quite exceptional, too. "You'll Probably Die Young" features atmospheric and moody reverb-drenched pianos that dissolve into odd industrial rhythms and noise, while "Oh (No Stranger To Failure)" is a wobbly semi-creepy carnival tune that leads into the disc's quirky synth based new wave closer, "There's A Girl Down There".

Despite the fact that it may sometimes come off as slightly pretentious, The Umbrella Party is, more often than not, nothing short of brilliant. The album's endearing quirky production, usually hitting retro experimental new wave territory, hides beautiful pop melodies that may even appeal to more mainstream audiences. Overall, it's a quaint but accessible album with multi-genre appeal that definitely shouldn't be overlooked.

 

Julian Tulip's Licorice website: www.freakathon.com

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