Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Recorded over the prolonged period of 2005 to 2013 whilst living variously in France, England and Wales, and featuring songs that were written as far back as 1995, it's no real surprise that Flat Ed's "Clapped Out" initially comes across as a bit of a stylistic hodge-podge, that sounds like the work of more than one personality. Add to this the knowledge that Flat Ed (real name Stephane Iserable) also hosts a ridiculously diverse, genre straddling radio show called Popcast, and his approach to making "Clapped Out" starts to make a lot more sense.
It's almost like Iserable has put together "Clapped Out" the way a radio programmer would sequence a show, rather than the way an artist would normally put together an album.
Is it cohesive? No, it flits between folk, prog, pop and primitive electronica in a fashion that's likely to addle those of a less flexible mindset, but if listening to Tarantino soundtracks has taught me anything, it's that a lack of cohesion can still make for a pretty exhilarating listen, and that's certainly the case here.
Naturally I'm drawn towards the tracks with a more classic rock / pop sound, the best of these being "24 Hours" which evokes Squeeze and Billy Bragg without being derivative of either, "Scapegoat" with it's subtle britpopesque guitar parts, "Growing Crows" which has a classic sixties pop sound, and "Sister School" which has a nagging, infectious low-key chorus layered in wordless backing vocals and what sounds like subtle mellotron. Very nice indeed.
That's just the tip of the iceberg though on an album that also finds space for folktronica ("Late Autumn Walk"), rumbling near-industrial ("Upstairs to Bed"), beaty proto-electronica "Cool Hassle" and piano laden balladry ("Concrete").
The old chestnut "something for everyone" gets bandied around a lot by lazy writers, but in this case it's entirely true. Well worth investigating, especially when the layered harmony vocals pile up towards the end of "Funny".
And if you buy it on vinyl (which I'd certainly recommend - it's a tremendous sounding pressing), you also get a free download of "Distant Cowboy Replay", a collection of covers featuring glowing reinterpretations of songs by the Byrds, the Kinks and a whole lot more.
You can stream the album here, or buy digitally or on vinyl through the same link.