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The Independent 4 out of 5 Stars No Better Than This Review
08.25.2010 - The Independent By Andy Gill

The argument between analogue and digital recording methods is neatly summarised this week by comparing this simple, stripped-down offering from John Mellencamp with the second album by Klaxons, on which the songs are hidden away beneath layers of digital blah, track after track of guitar and keyboard and effect piled upon the material until its spine snaps, and all that remains is some amorphous noise begging for your attention.

No Better Than This was recorded with T-Bone Burnett and his crack session crew, using just a single microphone and a vintage tape recorder over 50 years old. Upping the retro-Americana ante even further, the songs were all recorded at significant heritage locations, such as the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, which as its name suggests was the very first black church in America; Room 404 at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where hardwood flooring was temporarily relaid over the carpet to acquire similar acoustics to those prevailing when Robert Johnson laid down his first historic recordings there; and Sun Studio in Memphis, location of a thousand magical moments, where Burnett's band set up according to floor markings determined decades earlier by Sam Phillips for optimal sound quality. You don't tempt those kinds of comparisons unless you're pretty sure of your material: if the songs are no good, there's nowhere to hide.


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