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Teatime Assortment *

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Performer Notes
  • Audio Remasterer: Josh Bonati.
  • Liner Note Author: Martin Newell.
  • Illustrator: Hilary Lazell.
  • One could make a reasonable case for Martin Newell as the British answer to Robert Pollard. Like Pollard, Newell seems to have an unending supply of relentlessly catchy pop songs buzzing around in his head, and the willingness to document them as long as his makeshift home studio remains operative. In addition to being prolific, Newell also shares Pollard's habit of sending out his music under a variety of different rubrics -- whether he puts Martin Newell, the Cleaners from Venus, or the Brotherhood of Lizards on the cover of the album seems to be a matter of a whim rather than grand design. However, Newell and his music sound very British indeed, while Pollard is clearly from Ohio, and it's the very English tone of Newell's work, full of acid-tinged whimsey and rich pop-leaning melodies, that's the true trademark of Newell's music. (And we can chalk it up to all that whimsy that the U.K.'s answer to Robert Pollard is older and has been recording longer than the American item.) Just as important, Newell is a good bit more choosey about what he releases and how he puts it together, and 2015's Teatime Assortment is a 24-track overview of what he was working on between 2010 and 2014 (a number of songs have been previously released), running the gamut from glossy pop melodies ("Wake Up and Dream," "English Electric") and moody observational numbers ("St. Overdose-on-Sea," "Dear Wesley") to atmospheric instrumentals laced with sound effects and found conversations ("Essex Girls," "The Lost Summer") and languid light psychedelia ("Imaginary Seas," "Time We Talked Again"). While there's a pleasing variety in this music (as suggested by the album's title), there's also a consistent strength in Newell's gorgeous pop tunes and literate but playful verse, and he's a reliable, enthusiastic vocalist and sharp multi-instrumentalist to boot. And while Pollard's albums are often the work of a man who doesn't know his hits from his misses, Teatime Assortment doesn't have a genuine dud in the space of 78 minutes, suggesting Newell knows where to hide the tracks that don't make the grade. Newell has been writing tunes and releasing records since the dawn of the '80s, and judging from Teatime Assortment, he has no reason to stop anytime soon -- he has both quality and quantity well in hand, and this is a charming sampling of the fruit of his relentless imagination. ~ Mark Deming
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