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Neil Halstead: Sleeping on Roads

REVIEW: Neil Halstead: Sleeping on Roads
2.16.2002 by Sean

Neil Halstead: Sleeping on Roads [Beggars Group, 2002]

Two words? Mojave 1.

The announcement that Neil Halstead was to release a solo record couldn't have been more exciting to anyone except Mojave 3 fans - those shy hipsters who've been waiting since 1998 for something new from Britain's foremost leaders in hushed Americana. Halstead is the singer and principal songwriter of Mojave 3 (a role he played in their earlier incarnation as Slowdive), and it's his voice that best characterizes the shuffling murmurs of the Mojave back-catalog.

Well, Mojave 3 fans should be delighted, because Halstead's Sleeping on Roads is pure Mojave 3 - from the slightly filtered vocals to the finger-plucked guitars to the trumpets that lick the corners of songs such as "Driving With Bert". Halstead seamlessly merges Nick Drake's twee whisper with a hesitantly twangy instrumentation, and when he weaves in piano or banjo, it deepens the tone rather than altering it. It's this similarity in tone that is Mojave 3's biggest challenge, and it's one that they conventionally overcome by recording consistently excellent, memorable tunes. "Sleeping on Roads", however, is unable to accomplish this, and although each of the disc's nine tracks are pleasant, there's nothing here that will stick in your head in the way that "You're Beautiful" or "Prayer for the Paranoid" do. All of the songs drift together like dopey clouds or Sunday sunlight, and while it's a pleasing experience to be washed over by fifty minutes of singing about driving, seasons, dreaming and sleeping, it's not particularly moving, or sonically striking. While there are worse crimes than recording an album's worth of beautiful (if similar) songs, I might have hoped that Halstead would use his solo experience to take some chances, rather than dragging out some Mojave 3 cast-offs. If this is all he's got in him, however, I will be content to remain unmoved but tickled by Halstead's thoroughly pretty release.

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