Northern Portrait
Criminal Art Lovers


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
March 10th, 2010 | 18 replies | 9,322 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Hey, this new Smiths album is really good!

You might have missed it, but back in 2008, each member of Sputnik's staff was allowed to write their own full-length feature looking back over the year - I made Northern Portrait's The Fallen Aristocracy my EP of the year, and I know I wasn't the only one out there. It was clearly derivative of The Smiths, but most debut EPs rip something off, and there was more than enough there to suggest that they'd only get better with time. In the insidiously catchy "Crazy", they'd already written their first cult classic, too.

The bad news about Criminal Art Lovers is that it arguably sounds even more like The Smiths than the EPs did, and it's tempting to sarcastically review the album while pretending it's the follow-up to Strangeways, Here We Come. The good news, however, is that it's as good as that album, as good as Hatful of Hollow, and better than either of Meat is Murder or The Smiths. Be cynical if you want, but the songwriting here is just too good to ignore.

In an odd way, the album's main strength might be just how much Northern Portrait's frontman, Stefan Larsen, has learned from Morrissey - because unlike any other number of chancers over the years, he seems to get inside the songs, understanding exactly why and how they work. Most of Morrissey's finest tricks are repeated here in Larsen's own words; there are random outbursts of self-defensive violence (compare 'I'll slit the throat/Of anyone who tries to put me down' to 'Why do I give valuable time/To people I'd much rather kick in the eye' or 'Behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire'), and Larsen has also learnt how to build up a pretty narrative and then cut it down to size with one line of 'Caligula wuld have blushed'-style flippancy (see "That's When My Headaches Begin"). It's almost tempting to wonder whether he learned how to speak English by listening to Morrissey sing - the only thing holding back that idea is the belief that he's absorbed Morrissey's influences too. It might be the weakest lyric on the entire album, but there's something a little Wilde-esque about the way he flamboyantly announces 'I'm gay' at the start of "When Goodness Falls", only to retract it with a knowing 'in the old-fashioned way'.

The band, meanwhile, try to maintain a balancing act between the jangling of Marr and something their own. They just about pull it off - these songs are generally more muscular than your average Smiths track, nodding instead to recent Belle & Sebastian material. Certainly, no Smiths tracks ever had a snare drum as hard or snappy as the one in "When Goodness Falls" or the brilliantly-titled "The Munchhausen in Me".

If you value originality above all else, this album is not for you, but if you can get past the sound and hear the songs, you'll find a lot to love here.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010



15019 Comments


i like how you basically give a small summary at the end of your reviews sometimes, as if it's your review condensed into one sentence ;D haha.

good review, never heard of this band. probably will not check out, to be honest, but thats because i don't really listen to the smiths either.

RobotFrank
March 10th 2010



344 Comments


Strangeways, Hatful, Smiths and Meat is Murder are all 3.5 or worse? Curious nonetheless.

SeaAnemone
March 10th 2010



20049 Comments


the cover of this was on my art history test

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country

Enotron
March 10th 2010



7695 Comments


Checking out, just because of the comparison

Enotron
March 10th 2010



7695 Comments


HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT THESE GUYS SOUND SO MUCH LIKE THE SMITHS.

Craaazy, it's always happening to me.

Klekticist
March 10th 2010



1259 Comments


eh. may pass on this.

Kiran
Emeritus
March 11th 2010



6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i was going to review this months ago but all i could think of was 'the smiths go buffalo bill on a group of young danes for long lost comeback record; you can't fool me!' so i gave up, which turned out to be a good decision because you write far better than i do

Iai
Emeritus
March 11th 2010



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Strangeways, Hatful, Smiths and Meat is Murder are all 3.5 or worse?

Yes, undoubtedly.

alachlahol
March 11th 2010



7487 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i feel like i should have enjoyed this more than i did

Iai
Emeritus
March 11th 2010



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I mean, you know 3.5 is 'great', right?

alachlahol
March 11th 2010



7487 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

and i gave it a 2.5 which is 'average'

i'll listen to it again see if it does anything

danielewski
March 11th 2010



56 Comments


most people give things 3.5 they listen to like once and kind of like and tend to see 3 as a negative rating or something honestly how wrong can people be

Enotron
March 11th 2010



7695 Comments


and i gave it a 2.5 which is 'average'


He was responding to Robotfrank.

RobotFrank
March 11th 2010



344 Comments


I feel Strangeways deserves a little better, but fair enough. This sounds good - but c'mon guys. Be you!

jimmyisjonny
March 18th 2010



207 Comments


cool review, but to say its better than the smiths debut lp is... untrue

SatoIsNotPlace
March 21st 2010



99 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Merely "Good" in pretending it's a recent Smiths album.

starry
October 21st 2010



552 Comments


This is a GOOD album. I don't care who it is influenced by, I just care about the music. It is well performed and recorded with some good melody.

It's a pet annoyance of mine when you see people review music and dismissing it as it sounds like something else from the past, you see this with all kinds of reviews, popular and classical. This album is well above the average.

Yotimi
July 30th 2012



6473 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

probably the least creative non-mainstream rock album ever

Digging: Millie and Andrea - Drop The Vowels



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