The Restoration describe themselves as an “indie, folk roots outfit” from Columbia, South Carolina. In fact, they are primarily the working vehicle for songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Daniel Machado. ‘West’ is a deeply personal album centred around Machado’s father David. The songs explore a father’s dysfunctional upbringing and the impact on his relationship with his own son. If all that sounds hard going, well, yes it is. The words ‘concept album’ tend to have a similar effect on this reviewer as those equally trepidatious words ‘drum solo’. Nevertheless, headphones were donned, prejudices put to one side and mind opened up.
The opening track ‘You Know What to Do’, is the kind of folk vaudeville sound that the Bonzos or even Deaf School sometimes indulged in. No bad thing, one might argue, but in this instance, it seems a bit incongruous with the lyrical content of the song. This mismatch sets a precedent that permeates through the album. The music, the words and Machedo’s voice struggle to knit together into anything consistent or cohesive.
Many of the songs are overlong, and slowly build to a crescendo. It’s the kind of format that might be more readily found on a musical theatre soundtrack than a folk album, ‘Do You Think its Too Late for Us?’ being the most obvious example with its crashing finale. Such a format calls for a big powerful voice, which Machedo sadly does not possess. Some other songs work better. ‘Prepubescent Homeless Blues’ kicks along like a lost Rockpile track. Vocal deficiencies and sometimes clumsy words are camouflaged and it’s a decent tune. The same might be said for ‘Brother’ a country ballad which has a nice warm feeling to it, without ever really catching fire.
Despite some nice moments, the overall impression is one of an album that is unsure of what it wants to be. It ends up a rather disjointed affair. The line between introspection and self-indulgence is a fine one. On ‘West’ The Restoration too often find themselves on the wrong side of that divide.