Tea For Julie
By Todd Arkley
Tea For Julie’s debut album Division is pleasant but disconcerting. Disconcerting, because it’s a difficult album to pin down; at times it sounds like six singles and seven B sides cobbled together into a single piece. I’ve been stumped for days trying to describe it, so indulge me in some stylistic shorthand: early to mid-90s U.K.-based rock like Manic Street Preachers, Kinky Machine, The Times, Adorable and Suede. Press keeps mentioning Radiohead, which is somewhat relevant, but not completely accurate. The sound I hear in Tea for Julie’s music is straight power-chord/riff-rock-based tracks (“Endgame,” “BT6”), as well as tracks of melancholy, muted exuberance (“Still Life,” “1000 Colors”) and the mixing of the two together (“Julep”). That does sound similar to Radiohead, doesn’t it?
But what Tea for Julie has and Radiohead doesn’t is more visceral emotional honesty and less of the rage of a trapped intellect. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart fellows, it simply means they’ve got a clear, bright connection between gut and brain. They translate wretched feelings and ideas of the mind into tactile and fearless rock without sterilization.
Musically, the drums, effects and wonderful guitar on Division provide a dense, well-arranged background of pop complexity, but it is the voice that leads these songs and provides the themes. During the honed, crafted pop numbers, in the middle of the anthems and within the delicate numbers, you are always brought back to the voice. Manic Street Preachers’ album Everything Must Go is a good touchstone. The unashamed and open feeling by Michael Deresh reminds me slightly of Manic vocalist James Dean Bradford: alive, raged, honest, never trite.
I wonder where this band will go next. The songs and sounds of Divisionare too disparate throughout to give any clear picture, but thankfully nothing makes you wince. On the plus side, “1000 Colors” achieves the rare distinction of being just fucking beautiful and infinitely perfect. So, on the strength of that track alone, I would recommend this band and album. I am hoping they continue to hone their serious, sad, intelligent sounds into something stronger and more wrenching to both heart and mind. I have a feeling at this point in Tea for Julie’s life, live is the crucial meeting space. They should be heard raw and alive. – (8/10)