Review Summary: Refreshing and affecting.
In this* very frank and very funny interview with Drowned in Sound, Martin Rossiter boldly states 'I challenge you to name a better collection of songs released by anyone in the last two years', in reference to his new solo album The Defenestration of St Martin. The natural response to such a brazen declaration is 'easy!'. But to Rossiter's credit he has crafted a competent, occasionally great set of songs here. And those who would decry such self-belief and promotion probably underestimate it's importance in the music industry - how else do you think the Gallagher brothers have continuously conned the world into thinking they've produced anything of worth post What's The Story Morning Glory?
But Martin Rossiter isn't here to con anyone. The ten tracks on display here are constructed entirely (bar the final 30 seconds of the record) from just two elements; Rossiter's plaintive voice and a piano. Bar the camp, knowingly obnoxious 'I Must Be Jesus', the Morrisey comparisons that flagged his career when fronting 90's britpop band Gene are now ill-fitting. Here Rossiter sounds more like Tom Smith, albeit less stern. The best song is the melancholic 'Drop Anchor'. Evoking Billy Brag at his romantic best (think 'The Price I Pay' rather than 'There Is Power In A Union') it's hook - 'stop floating around, drop anchor with me, I've been at sea far too long' - is blue, bruised and tender.
The other highlight is cathartic ten minute opener 'Three Points On A Compass' where he berates (presumably) his father. Despite its length it doesn't drag, and the plain, economical nature of the language Rossiter uses to describe his pain is surprisingly effective - 'you broke my home and I will never forget all of the things you did'. The homogeneity may be off-putting and some variation in instrumentation would have helped distinguish the songs from one another but I suspect that would betray Rossiter's aim here. This is a substantial attempt at real song-craft, a back-to-basics approach favouring substance and authenticity over style and atmosphere. Refreshing and affecting.