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REVIEW: Kelly Brock: So Close
7.27.2001 by Sean

Kelly Brock: So Close (Synergy Records, 2001)

West Coast singer Kelly Brock has a most lovely voice. While it lacks the quirky appeal of Fiona Apple or Dido, Kelly sings with a strong, vibrant tone, and she performs with a vigour unheard of in the work of her more girlish peers. Still, a pretty voice does not a masterwork make, and although this disc is a good showcase for Brock's talents, she does not succeed in lifting it out of its inevitable pigeonhole.

Things start out questionably with an effect-laden, almost spoken-word opening, but initial doubts are cast aside when "Desperate Measures" really kicks in, Kelly singing "Na Na Na"s over jangly guitars. The opener is perfect radio fare, fun and well-produced, with a good melody and decent lyrics. It's admirable that Brock wrote or co-wrote nine of the eleven tracks on So Close, and this alone sets her apart from the teenpop starlets south of the border. I mean sure, the song isn't transcendental - it lacks the oomph of Indie energy that Sarah Harmer's solo debut has - but it's meant to be radio-friendly music: pretty songs by a pretty girl.

And the first song certainly meets that criterion. "You'd Be Mine", with its quiet acoustic beginning, is much the same. By the time it peaks into a chorus, Brock has shown herself to have the same focus and clarity of tone as Amanda Marshall at her most bearable. If one sets aside the repetitive, ho-hum drums, there's really nothing to complain about here. Some subtle production flourishes, gracefully rendered multitrack vocals, and a pleasant Jewel-esque minor chord at the end of each reprise.

"One Chance" swaggers with a Sheryl Crow sneer, but it serves best as an attitude-filled intro to "A Lot of Little Things", a nice, under-stated tune that blind-sides you with a soaring chorus. Again, Brock shows herself to have a good ear for melody, picking out appealing hooks and linking them with consistently functional bridges.

If only it lasted.

If the first four songs on So Close produced three possible radio hits, the rest of the CD bats near 0. "Something About You" sounds like Dawson's Creek themesong-by-numbers, and "13 Stars" utterly disappoints in its transition from appealingly delivered ballad to conventional sap. "Intoxicated" is a cliched waste of time, making incessant parallels between drunkenness and love, with the clumsiness of one who has never actually been inebriated. "You've Come a Long Way Baby," while having nothing to do with the Fatboy Slim album, is an improvement from its company, with a funky, verging-on-trip-hop feel and some muttered background reggae. Unfortunately, it sounds like a Sheryl Crow emulation rather than an original interpretation. Unlike Nelly Furtado's debut, Kelly can't pull off the trip-hop without it sounding forced. The last two songs are simplistic and insipid - utterly forgettable - in spite of the tight Ben Harperesque acoustic guitar-work on "Everything is Good". Rather than closing with a radio sing-along anthem, Brock opted to finish with "Highs and Lows," a failed attempt at rock-blues. Sad day.

The first third of So Close isn't art, but it's certainly good summer fare. Fans of Tara McLean and Amanda Marshall will find something to like, though bisexual angry chicks like Kyra should hold out for the upcoming Tori album. In the end, though, Kelly Brock needs to work on making an entire album tight with songs, because it's that - not her voice - that will sell.

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