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Marc Pacitti has published 39 articles

Review: Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Crown and Treaty

Marc Pacitti finds Sweet Billy Pilgrim caught in the void between critical acclaim and commercial success
Marc Pacitti on Thursday 3rd May 2012
Photograph: Luxor Purchase

Sweet Billy Pilgrim lurk in that murky area of the musical world where critical fawning has failed to translate into popular attention. Crown and Treaty provides clues to account for this fact. The opening track, ‘Joyful Reunion’, is one of the most frustrating songs I have ever listened to. On paper it looks magnificent – an atonal brass opening, lyrics evoking a more innocent time and even a section with marching-band snare drum. However, when it comes to the chorus, the entire band seems to fall asleep. It is intensely disappointing to hear a song that is obviously lovingly constructed fail to break into some sort of exciting hook.

This trend continues throughout the first half of the record, until, suddenly, in the middle of ‘Bruguda’, we are finally given a chorus. Admittedly, it’s not exactly the greatest chorus of all time, but you could imagine singing along to it. However, not only is this revelation too little, too late, it is also a rarity. The rest of the record returns to somnambulant mumblings and warblings and therein lies the problem. There’s no edge to the music. Their closest comparisons may be Bon Iver or Bonnie Prince Billy, but, on the evidence of Crown and Treaty, Sweet Billy Pilgrim seem to lack the visceral honesty of the former or the damaged, broken and, most importantly, interesting voice of the latter.

Perhaps this fault explains the difficulty that Sweet Billy Pilgrim have had in breaking into the mainstream. They are too well–adjusted to be a cult band, too content to be the next heartbroken Bon-Iveralike, and lack the hooks to be a mainstream ‘alternative’ rock band. Until they decide on a direction they wish to follow, they are likely to remain as they are: on the periphery of both musical and commercial success.

2 STARS

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