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Fizzle Like a Flood

Flash Paper Queen

Ernest Jenning

Doug Kabourek's second full-length album under the Fizzle Like a Flood moniker is subtitled The 4-track Demos, pretending to be something it's not -- "Includes demo versions of all 10 tracks for the album Flash Paper Queen!" the cover boldly proclaims. Problem is: This is the only version of Flash Paper Queen there is. Another faux story to help sell an album, then, but this time there may be a reason for that kind of a story, besides the obvious promotional aspect. Pretending to have put together a demo collection of songs, Kabourek forces himself out of the epic pop grandeur approach that defined his former releases, and it allows him to explore his songs in a bare naked setting.

However, the album starts out where his former Love single left of, with the multi-layered, expansive "Like Wind Like Rain" -- a stunning track that brings together everything that came before, and shows Kabourek at his highest peak yet. That single track apparently took him about half a year to get right, and it shows. Perhaps that's why he wants to take things down a bit on the remaining songs, if only to be able to finish it up before he pushes sixty.

Whatever the reason, it's a bold move to step back from the sound that has defined you by moving in, seemingly, the exact opposite direction. And it's even more impressive to do without compromising and to, paradoxically, retain the basic fundament of what set you apart in the first place. The demo version of "Like Wind Like Rain" is included and offers proof of how Kabourek's arrangements push the original song idea, while still demonstrating the extent to which the original basic outline is kept intact.

And while it's intriguing to think what the other songs on here would sound like if given the full studio treatment, they are moving and impressive as they stand. They may be stripped down to the bone, but are imaginatively and playfully arranged, making sure these are among the most satisfactory "demos" you've ever heard. His angst-ridden love songs are beautiful, laced with sardonic humor, dark undercurrents, and emotional nakedness. Apart from the one miss on here -- "Let's Go Together" is a tedious pop affair, far below his regular high standards -- this is an album of quite simply stunning, overwhelming, folksy indie psychedelia. Kabourek's songwriting is as engaging and beautiful as ever, and it's probably just about time the focus is on the songwriting -- rather than the arrangements. Flash Paper Queen is Fizzle Like a Flood's best, most fully realized album yet. And I can't wait to hear him surpass it on his next one. Stunning.

Ernest Jenning Record Co.: http://www.ernestjenning.com