Back in the 70s and 80s, ITV had a talent show called New Faces – a kind of precursor to Britain’s Got Talent which took the best (and worst) of the acts doing the club circuits and showed them off for the delight of the audience and the derision of the judges.
The show helped launch the careers of Lenny Henry, Joe Pasquale, the Chuckle Brothers, Victoria Wood, Michael Barrymore and Showaddywaddy amongst others, and is therefore responsible for foisting a whole heap of dross onto the general public along with the occasional gem (you decide who goes into which category).
Communion Records’ compilation of the same name feels not dissimilar to that stalwart of Saturday night TV, in that it gathers together a collection of acts turning heads around and about on a mainly minor level and pops them blinking into the spotlight to see if they survive.
Sadly, that’s not where the similarity ends, as across its 20 tracks, it reveals several acts who utterly fail to make a mark in the psyche and who, if this were the programme, would have faced cruel words and a harsh stare from Nina Myskow (who was the Simon Cowell of her day, only with worse hair, terrible make-up and even less humanity).
Such a fate doesn’t lay in store for the bookending boys of the album. Opening proceedings is Michael Kiwanuka, whose Chicago Soul-inspired Tell Me A Tale showcases his talents superbly, while at the other end, the curtain comes down with a cut from man of the moment Gotye, who offers the sublime Bronte as evidence that his number one Somebody That I Used To Know was no fluke.
Yet, they are amongst the only stand-outs in a crowd of mediocrity. While the contributions from Julia Stone, Joe Banfi, Boy & Bear, The Apache Relay and Daughter suggest that while these might not be the most thrilling of songs, they as acts might be worth further investigation, the majority of what is on offer is simply unremarkable and mundane.
Worse still, there are several acts that, in keeping with that talent show theme, seem to be tributes to other more successful artists, with the much vaunted James Vincent McMorrow being a prime example. Having piqued public interest with an aching Higher Love cover, here he suggests he’s little more than an Irish rehash of Bon Iver with Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low.
Not that he is the worst offender. That title goes to Three Blind Wolves, who do such a convincing impression of My Morning Jacket on Emily Rose that you’d be forgiven for thinking they had simply stolen a spare master out of the Kentucky band’s studio and passed it off as their own.
New Faces then is as much a mixed bag as its namesake programme ever was and shows that for every star hidden away just waiting to be discovered, there’s ten more that should be left out of the spotlight where they belong.