There has been a lot of media hype surrounding Dave Stewart’s newest partnership/band Platinum Weird and their amazing “back-story”, a convoluted – and primarily untrue — tale of lost love & fame that could potentially qualify as a Movie of the Week on the Hallmark channel. And all the attention paid to this pretend history has made Platinum Weird, the most famous band that never was.
The “back story” goes like this:
Dave Stewart meets his soul mate, the perfect, talented and ethereal Erin Grace. Grace becomes Stewart’s muse and together they form the band Platinum Weird. They are then discovered while playing at a party thrown by Elton John for Mick Jagger’s birthday. Elton signs them to his new record label and they begin cutting a record right away. However, before they can finish, Grace does a runner leaving Stewart a broken man with nothing to remember her by except the primarily unfinished tracks for their soon-to-be-debut album Make Believe.
But, like the eponymous name of their first album, it is all just make believe. Platinum Weird, Erin Grace, their amazing discovery and Make Believe are all just a diaphanous tissue of marketing ploy, nothing more. What actually makes this such an amazing story isn’t Stewart’s insistence that it is 85% true — although in a recent interview he has upped that to 95% – or that they managed to get VH1 to make a rockumentary about it, or even how many people are actually going along with it, even now that everyone knows it’s untrue. No, the really amazing thing about this story is that Dave Stewart and Kara DioGaurdi have actually recorded that fictious 1974 album.
I have previously reviewed their “new” self-titled album Platinum Weird and loved it. It is still one of my favourite albums. But that album – now shelved for this year – was very different to this 74-esque version.
When listening to Make Believe I couldn’t get over the feeling that it was Platinum Weird on Muzak. Where Platinum Weird is guitar-driven indie rock with a bluesy twist. Make Believe is… well a poor man’s Rumours. Kara DioGaurdi’s strong, emotive, melancholy voice is ill-suited to the 70’s styling and overall the album has a forced scratchy on top of digitized production feel. Many of the tracks on Make Believe are nothing more than Platinum Weird covering Platinum Weird and I just didn’t warm to them. There are however a few exceptions.
“Lonely Eyes” is one of the few that does the 74 sound well. With warbled, watery vocals and a piano riff that is very reminiscent of that pre-synth daze of Elton John and Billy Joel. The swaying, post flower-child psychedelic feel makes this a very believable 70’s track.
“Picture Perfect” is a slow ballad with acoustic guitar over piano that would have been much more convincing as a 1970’s song if it didn’t also have the over produced feeling of a 21st century album. However the track itself is beautiful and has something completely unique on it – Dave Stewart singing. I am not conscience of ever hearing him this clearly on any track before. I was both startled and charmed by Stewart’s deep, hesitant, earthy voice.
So imagine the surprise of finding him the lead vocals on “Piccadilly Lane” a beautifully poignant track with Stewart’s charming, falteringly raw voice perfectly complementing the sweet romantic feel of the melancholy lyrics.
Make Believe is a fair stab at a long gone era but I’m not sure it always works the way it was meant to. The 70’s stylings are a bit much and it never manages to shake that over produced lets-make-it-sound-really-old feeling. Kara DioGaurdi’s powerful, soulful voice feels stunted and caged and the lyrics are a little to 1970’s wannabe.
Dave Stewart is and always will be a nearly flawless rock legend in my mind (particularly after talking with him – he is a fantastically warm, funny, down-to-earthy-guy) and releasing this album instead of the new Platinum Weird may be his one flaw. Make Believe isn’t anywhere near as good as Platinum Weird’s other new album. It certainly wasn’t good enough for a rock & roll genius like Stewart. But I love him, so I’ll accept that even a rock god has a stumble now and again.
If you would like to listen to Platinum Weird’s new old album Make Believe you can hear several tracks including “Picture Perfect” with Dave Stewart’s charming vocals at their MySpace profile page.