Less Trip-Hop, More Acoustic

There have been major pitfalls in a band's career when they change directions after their debut, disembarking the very thing they were known for something entirely different. The Sneaker Pimps' sophomore album Splinter ditched the trippy-exotic tinged female vocals of Kelli Dayton (performs under Kelli Ali now) and move forward with their founding members Chris Corner and Liam Howe, where Corner took the voice of the band. Splinter doesn't entirely shift into unknown territory for a once-tagged trip-hop band, as Archive's sensational debut Londinium changed their sound completely on their 2nd effort, while it may have been a step down for that band - The Sneaker Pimps show promise.

If there's one thing that can be concentrated for any trip-hop band is generally the more successful groups tread within a dark atmosphere, imploring a foothold within the listener with their sound. Howe and Corner's use from Becoming X to Splinter isn't entirely earth-shattering in terms of their movement from their '96 release. Their debut showed the gloomy side of things in songs like "Low Place Like Home" or "Tesko Suicide", but Splinter alters its sound at the forefront. Acoustic instrumentation is key on Splinter, but the electronic needle is still very much in the vein of the music. A clear touchstone for the band's previous work starts predictably and enjoyably on "Superbug", but does it not feel out of place? A tad I'd say, but its electronic reliance is toned down as Corner charges on the track.

You know how you realize that an album may be too long for its own good? Well Splinter has points in its listing to prove my point. "Flowering and Silence" may have a well-developed beat, but clearly the lack of bass is hurting, if not boring me too death as Corner tries to hold out the song on piano keys and tiresome drum cycles. I'm bit overly harsh, but once Splinter sinks its teeth into you with "Half Life" and "Low Five", which use violins, piano, and an ever-increasing dark, yet energetic mood that is pushed through with Corner, it eventually becomes such a low point thinking you're hearing it as a repeat in the middle of the album. While other songs seem to teeter on its electronic influences and the band's new direction with an acoustic guitar in "Splinter" it may seem a bit overdone on this 14-track ride.

Corner's vocal work is exceptional considering this would be his first endeavor in the forefront, something he hasn't put down since taking the helm here. And while I come back to my point of the tiresome formula that may be crawling its way back into the middle of the album, it sticks with the band here and there. "Cute Sushi Lunches" is unfortunately brought down by its previous track. Its constant pauses between musical flow and Corner's brooding voice isn't as good as one would expect. Splinter shows its weakness in that its vocals aren't average or mediocre in any way, but with a mostly solid to excellent instrumentation from acoustics to synthesizers, Corner becomes the problem, it may just feel monotonous for some and unfortunately for most by the end of Splinter you may feel yourself a bit worn-out.

Grade: B-


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