Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Album Review: The McClymonts - Wrapped Up Good

"Are you ready to kick it up?"

That's the first thing you here when you pop in the second album by Australian family act The McClymonts.  It's a fitting indicator of the fact that Wrapped Up Good is largely dominated by an overwhelming tendency to play the catchy card, to varying degrees of success.  Opening track "Kick It Up" doesn't accomplish much, mostly because it sounds like it's trying too hard.  The melody is forgettable, while lyrics demanding truck beds full of beer and ice, and a declaring that "This party ain't for shrinkin' violets," sound too forced to make for a genuinely fun song.  Party songs are all good and fine, but in this case the chemistry doesn't ignite, and it just doesn't quite click.  Meanwhile, the Nathan Chapman-produced title track "Wrapped Up Good" attempts to be a fun, sexy "Let's get it on" number, only to be obliterated by bloated, overwrought pop-country production and overprocessed vocals, which sours the sweetness in the sisters' bloodline harmonies.

Fortunately, things finally start coming together on the third track, "He Used to Love Me" - a track that shoots for catchiness, and actually hits the target.  It begins as a slow acoustic tune as Brooke McClymont laments "I had me a good one, but he got away..." and then the song morphs into an upbeat fiddle-rocker (with a catchy "woo-ooh" hook to boot) as she determines to "Get in my car, track him down."  The track taps into the vein of the almost slightly delusional female narrator who will let nothing get in the way of her getting a hold of true love, and it ends up a genuinely amusing and engaging listen.

A distracting bass line gets in the way of a clever hook, as Brooke deems her on-again-off-again lover "The Boy Who Cried Love."  But we find the girls in good shape all around on "Take It Back," in which a laid-back acoustic arrangement exposes a raw vulnerability in Samantha McClymont's emotional lead vocal.  Similarly, she sings in a hushed whisper as she delivers the slow-burning, beautifully-metaphoric "A Woman Is a Flame."  The two ballads arguably rank as the album's strongest tracks.

But not all of the up-tempos are duds.  An infectious guitar hook turns "Rock the Boat" into a broadly enjoyable earworm of a tune, while the playful steel-laden romp "I'm Not Done with You Just Yet" gives the girls plenty of room to show some spunk and personality.  Without a doubt, it's the album's 'countriest' track as well.

Overall, Wrapped Up Good is something of a mixed bag.  The talent is there, but it shines brightest when it's not hampered down by poor production choices.  But while it has its share of clunkers, the album's best tracks show that when all the right pieces fall into alignment, the results are extremely satisfying.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)