Balthazar – Thin Walls (Play It Again Sam)


On first listen, this Belgian quintet’s third long player walks a fine line between Arctic Monkeys and I Am Kloot, though in its more audacious moments, it ventures curiously into Ariel Pink territory. They don’t sound Belgian (although admittedly, I am basing my knowledge of what does sound Belgian on Hercule Poirot’s dulcet tones – ironically a character played by a bloke as English as Bagpuss), instead settling for a very British vernacular that seemingly effortlessly oozes charm. ‘Nightclub’, for instance, embraces the kind of footstomping rhythm employed to great effect by Depeche Mode on ‘Personal Jesus’, whilst ‘Dirty Love’ evokes the same string-swelling ambience of Super Furry Animals’ ‘Juxtaposed With You’ or perhaps ‘Lady’s Bridge’ era Richard Hawley.

It’s easy to understand why Balthazar have picked up a brace of ‘Best Album’ trophies at the International Music Awards, for their brand of pop music is inoffensive – in a good way – and exceptionally easy to palate. There’s more than one flavour of muffin in the pantry too, as is probably best evidenced on ‘Bunker’, a number which comes over all ‘Lovely Day’ on you and then turns into a highly infectious slab of indie soul that’s likely to have you dancing until the early hours.

I was put in mind of a glut of contemporary sixties artists during ‘Wait Any Longer’, with The Kinks,The Pretty Things, Nashville Teensand The Small Faces at the forefront of my mind. Everything here is a carefully crafted pop song, in the same way that Crowded House‘s were. Not that Marten Devoldere‘s songwriting bears a great deal of resemblance to Neil Finn‘s, but these songs often have a personality of their own and they are always a pleasure to listen to. The frontman’s vocals often drift into a lazy drawl reminiscent of Ryan Jarman of Cribs fame, and that is when they are at their very best.

I think amongst all the gibberish I’ve just sputtered at you, what I’m trying to say is that you won’t be blown away by anything on Thin Walls, but everything within it is easy to like. And that’s a rare talent, if you ask me.

[Rating: 3.5]

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.