Murray Evans really needs a redneck drawl, a proper Bible-belt country style voice, because it would really fit a lot of the songs on World At Large. Having the voice would definitely do something for the album, which otherwise is a little lacking. Evans puts on a fairly good redneck impression on the track ‘Codeine Dreams’ and it improves (perhaps that’s not the word I want – affirms?) it greatly.
Dust Poets do extend their musical wings a little more than just hitting the country vibes – ‘Hotel Paradiso’ has Mexican-influenced horns swinging through it, ‘Border Town’ has the occasional bluesy guitar-riff, whilst standout track ‘Opening Day (56 Year Old Wig)’ is a lovely little mandolin-driven song with a floating female voice carrying the melody. The Randy Newman-esque bob to ‘Kiss Away the Afternoon’ is similarly quite entertaining. There is something to be found in each track if you look for it, but at the same time some do rather plod than glide or stride, such as ‘Deceived by Gasoline’, and others seem very formulaic, such as ‘Skeletons In Your Inbox’.
Lyrically, Dust Poets are fairly standard and conventional but do have a few nice turns of phrase and slightly unexpected moments. In ‘Codeine Dreams’ the singer muses that he will be well again “when I stop feeling pain/and I’m on the rebound train”, yet the reference to “a renaissance man in a Salvador Dalì scheme” seems very incongruous with the Southern accent he is imitating. ‘Opening Day’ is apparently about putting on a play, but there’s something a little weird in singing about the wigs used in this play (“you’ll get to play in every heart/they shaved a head for every part”).
World At Large is an album that I am sure will appeal to some; it is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t see it ever being branded a great album. It might strike a chord with those who have a loose taste for country music, but serious traditional country fans might take issue with it. Dust Poets clearly have potential, but World At Large does not realise it.
Words: Robbie Hayward