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Music Review: Passenger – Wicked Man’s Rest

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When an album gets reviews that contain descriptions such as "Captivating" (Q Magazine), "Intensely Beautiful" (The Sun, a UK national daily) and "Style and Intelligence" (New Musical Express) it tends to attract your attention. The band in question. Passenger, come from England’s South Coast resort of Brighton and their album Wicked Man’s Rest (due for release in the US on 5th August 2008 on Chalkman/Cooking Vinyl) has created quite a stir here in Europe. Passenger is essentially a two piece band built around twenty three year old Mike Rosenberg and Andrew Phillips. Phillips was already a Bafta award winning film and TV soundtrack composer with over fifty credits to his name when he met singer songwriter Rosenberg at a Free Burma event in London where both were appearing separately.

They began writing together and the sound that is now Passenger gradually began to emerge with Phillips adding cinematic touches to singer Rosenberg’s compositions giving them a unique, stylish quality that has resulted in the glowing tributes mentioned above. By the time Wicked Man’s Rest was completed Passenger had evolved into a five piece, adding violins, cellos, and keyboards to bring a further depth to the band’s sound.

Another attention grabbing detail is the inclusion of Allen Ginsberg on the opening track from which the album takes its name. These are clearly young men who think about life, people, and the world deeply and manage to convey their observations so effectively into their music. The opening track “Wicked Man’s Rest” sets the scene for what is to come perfectly. This is not merely background music even though it’s jaunty up beat tempo could easily fool you into thinking it so. This is something altogether different. Passenger have that ability to observe and draw from the characters in day to day life – yes you and me folks – and write songs that have a cinematic quality as a story unfolds. Mike Rosenberg explains "we try and find characters that everyone can relate to and get into their heads for three and a half minutes," And get into heads they most definitely do.

There are two tracks on this album that have really caught my attention. “Night Vision Binoculars" exists on two levels. The first is a quirky sounding number that hides a more sinister story line written around a stalker. Just like a stalker you may not know it’s there until you see, or in this case hear, him. "Table For One" is a commentary on middle age that is equally compelling and lyrically unsettling.

"Things You’ve Never Done" is a personal favourite. Anyone who can write a line like "and you’ve blown out all your candles one by one and you curse yourself for the things you’ve never done", is perceptive enough to understand the dilemma of many of us who find ourselves at that time of life known for reflection and sometimes regret – middle age.
Other influences surface on the album such as shades of James Taylor on "Do What You Like" whilst "For You" evokes memories of Simon & Garfunkle.

This is an album that will provoke the inevitable comparisons to the likes of David Gray and James Blunt, however it comes with a twist. As Mike Rosenberg says "even if we turn people onto our music one by one then it’s kind of worthwhile". With that philosophy, and a deep intelligent understanding of life as we know it, he is doing exactly that. I am now one of those people turned on to Passenger and can gladly add the word ‘exquisite’ to the already glowing tributes written about Wicked Man’s Rest.

Passenger are currently busy taking the album into the United States with the following dates due. Try and catch them out on the road and get the album but listen intently because beneath that quirky exterior lurks some dark and perceptive lyrics that separate this album from many others.

Visit the band's site for more details and a listen.

US TOUR DATES:
Tues Aug 5th: Louisville, Gerstle's Place
Thurs Aug 7th: Minneapolis, The Hollow 
Sat Aug 9th: Denver, Meadowlark

Mon Aug 11th: Los Angeles, Hotel Cafe 
Tue Aug 12th: San Diego, House of Blues 
Wed Aug 13th: San Francisco, Swedish American Hall 
UK TOUR DATES:
Fri 11th July: Dry Bar, Manchester
Sun 13th July: Trof, Manchester 
Mon 14th July: Carpe Diem, Leeds 
Tue 15th July: PLEASE NOTE VENUE CHANGE: Fibbers, York 
Mon 21st July: The Cellars, Portsmouth 
ue 22nd July: The Freebutt, Brighton
Fri 25th July: The Secret Garden Party, Huntingdon
Sat 16th Aug: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffs (On stage at 14:35)
Sun 17th Aug: V Festival, Hylands Park, Chelmsford (On stage at 14:35)
Sat 30th Aug: Hydro Connect Festival, Argyll, Scotland (On stage 15:25)

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