Unplugged:  Part 1 – The Hate Club (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Cliches are fun right? All that glitters isn’t gold. And they all lived happily ever after. Read between the lines. Fun but not always that useful. Alexander Poe knows, however, that there is at least one cliche that stands up to scrutiny. Less is More. Unplugged is the sound of him putting the phrase to the test as he takes The Hate Club‘s songs of emotional turmoil and disenfranchisement and strips them down to the bone. Excuse the cliche.

Usually swathed in sonic layers of punk rock swagger, dark drama and exploratory electronica, here he eschews his usual approach and instead delivers the songs fairly unadorned with occasionally just minimal accompaniment, but largely in the raw. And of course, that is the real test for anyone’s music, peel the layers away, the studio textures and the additional detail and you get to the heart of the song itself and if it still works in such an intimate and musically naked form then it is a good song in its own right. That’s the litmus test.

It is a test that Poe’s music passes with ease. It fact it is a brilliant opportunity to see the simple but effective mechanics of his songs in action and you realise that at the heart of these sweeping and poignant pieces is a very traditional starting point. And without the usual cloak of swirling dark energy the songs become even sharper, more direct, seem more personal and even more easily accessible.

But they are anything but the dark, gothic dirges that I may seem to be painting here. One Mile Away runs on a strange staccato groove and almost comes across like beat poetry put to a warped dystopian disco beat and Poison chimes along to splintered mandolins and military drum rolls. It is closing salvo Little By Little that gets closest to the heart aching and world weary vibe that you might have been expecting but the fact that he doesn’t rely on this more obvious tack shows that he is happy to explore his own sound rather than merely deliver what the audience might be expecting. After all wouldn’t that be just a little cliched? Alexander Poe proves that he is anything but.

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