Moving on from all the 7"s that have been covered on these pages lately, here's a 10" EP from EbM favourites Withered Hand. While the last WH release - the Heart Heart 7" that came out in Feb. - represented a new direction for Dan Wilson's project, Inbetweens is more representative of Withered Hand's general sound. What I've always loved about WH, and which was perhaps slightly lacking in Heart Heart, is his ability to take the generic setup of acoustic guitar and crackly voice and turn it into something ultimately rather esoteric. Aside from his distinctive voice, there's nothing overtly groundbreaking in the aesthetics of WH's recorded output, but it does serve as a fine canvas to perfectly showcase the quality of the songwriting; to the point where hi. 2009 LP has been slowly creeping to the top of my all-time favourite albums list.
The title track on Inbetweens might not be WH's best work, but it is nevertheless very good indeed, and it's been my experience that WH songs tend to be 'growers', so come back in six months and this track may be a firm favorite. Where this EP gets interesting for me as a WH fan is the b-side, where some old songs are revisited. If you include Meursault's cover, this is the fifth recorded version of Oldsmobile Car (which I know better as Red Candle Bulb) that I've heard, and up until now every version has had some flaw or quirk in it that renders it slightly less than a finished product. That might have been a dodgy drum machine or some ever dodgier backing vocals ("shooby-shooby"?!), but I'm pleased to report that this version gives the song the treatment it has so long deserved.
More controversial, in my eyes, is the final track, (it's a) Wonderful Lie. Originally released as a Christmas song in 2007, the song was so good that Dan changed a verse to make it less season-specific and incorporated it into his live shows. This is a recording of that version complete with fleshed-out instrumentation, and it is very, very good. What makes it sit uneasily with me is that it's not quite as good as the original festive version. I'm willing to accept that this might be because I have a strong emotional attachment to the old version - I've listened to it countless hundreds of times in the fortnightly period in which it's acceptable to listen to Christmas songs - but secretly I'm sure it's because the older version actually is better.
All in all, this 10" has much to recommend it, both to Withered Hand fanboy completists and casual admirers of really great music. Go buy it!