Review Summary: A promising debut album from one of the UK’s most intriguing singer/songwriters.
Drawing on deeply personal, impassioned lyrics, Lester J. Allen’s debut offering “Deadly Quiet” is certainly not for the easy-listener. With a number of songs documenting a failed suicide attempt, it seems unlikely that this album will ever break into the mainstream, which is a great shame, as the song-writing is little short of outstanding for the vast majority of this debut LP. Take the stunning opener “I’ve Been Incredibly Good This Year” for example, a concise, gentle piano ballad, which gives subtle hints to the horrors which lie ahead during the course of the album. The achingly beautiful piano melody serves as a testament to Lester’s special gift at writing songs.
However, the album truly comes into its element when Lester is at his most anguished. “Happy Birthday” is a sublimely executed reinterpretation of the familiar celebratory song with profoundly disturbing lyrics (“When I hit 19, my friends were screaming, I was found in the bathroom, I was hung and swinging, so happy birthday to me…”). The unnerving harmonies provided by the piano accompaniment further exemplify the incomparable originality of the songwriter. Similarly affecting is the one-two emotional punch of “Nothing Bothers Me” and “30 Pills”; the former providing a sense of impending doom through a delicate, yet ominous string arrangement, whilst the latter offers a devastatingly blunt chorus (“Today’s the day I die”) and an outstanding finale via a blood-curdling scream, the like of which has not been heard in folksy music since Bright Eyes' “Fevers and Mirrors”.
As with most debuts though, the album is not without its flaws. Occasionally, songs overstay their welcome, such as on “Don’t Forget To Wash Behind Your Fears”, which probably would have benefited from being shortened by a minute or so. On the other hand, the title-track, despite being the longest song on the record, could have afforded to be a little more self-indulgent, perhaps extending the final instrumental passage, to allow the listeners to enjoy and explore the wonderful variety of textures on offer. In reality though, these are minor flaws on an otherwise promising album from one of Britain’s hottest musical prospects. Lester J. Allen’s “Deadly Quiet” may make for uneasy listening, but it may prove to be one of this year’s strongest debut offerings.