Craig Bethell: A Day Full of You, A Night Tired of Me

Though A Day Full of You, A Night Tired of Me is billed as the debut album by ex-Locust vocalist Craig Bethell, it's really more accurately a collaboration between Bethell and Mark Van Hoen (Locust, Mojave 3), given the latter's involvement as multi-instrumentalist, co-writer, and producer. Apparently much of the album's material derives from unreleased sessions with Van Hoen that Bethell (who has been sporadically recording material since 1983) was persuaded to revisit and subsequently revise and re-record and complement with new songs (sleeve details indicate that about half were recorded in 2000 and the other in 2006).

The album's most distinctive feature is Bethell's voice which resembles a fusion of Eno and Dave Gahan; at times, it's uncanny how much Bethell's singing resembles the two of them in the same moment. On songs such as “Roll the Dice” and “Finding the Light,” his voice is so reminiscent of Eno's, blindfold listeners would likely identify it as such (more precisely, the double-tracked vocalizing recalls the romantic nasal croon of “Spider and I” rather than the cryptic psycho of “Baby's On Fire”). The Eno connection only goes so far, however: Bethel's songs are lushly arranged but, compared to Eno's, conventional. There are few if any eccentric strokes of re-configuring genius of the kind encountered in “Sky Saw” or “Over Fire Island,” for example. Even so, A Day Full of You, A Night Tired of Me also at times instrumentally evokes Eno circa Before and After Science, as when the synthesizer intro to “December” calls to mind the lush sweep of “Julie With…” Though the songs are heavily synth-centered, Van Hoen and Bethell flesh out the arrangements with electric piano, harp (“History Repeats Itself”), strings and glockenspiel (“Bad Blood”), plus Holli Ashton's soft voice nicely offset Bethell's on a couple of songs. The album's wide-ranging: its late-night lounge leanings come literally to the fore in “Waiting” when jazzy trumpet and piano lines introduce Bethell's vocal, while “Other People's Dreams” swings like a breezy samba and “A Night Tired of Me” ends the album hauntingly with a synth-drenched murder ballad that sways drunkenly. Presented so plaintively and melodramatically, not to mention free of irony or gothic decadence, the album's electronic torch songs sometimes come across as a little bit old-fashioned—though not off-puttingly so, especially when executed with such polish.

April 2008