A soundtrack for dissatisfied twenty-somethings.
Napoleon IIIrd is as far from your typical unknown singer-songwriter as a fast food takeaway is from a healthy balanced meal; perhaps not the best analogy to make as this Leeds-based artist is neither a piece of fried chicken or a Jamie Oliver school dinner, neither trashy and bad for you or ostentatiously perfect. 'In Debt To' contains a joyfully eclectic mix of sounds and influences, chosen and put together in a manner that shows true understanding of music and its effect on the listener.
It wouldn't be fair to readers of this review to assert that 'In Debt To' is an easy album to get into. It isn't, and on first listen you may be left feeling somewhat dissociated from the plethora of styles that pours forth from your CD player. Interlude 'Introduction To A' is a slow, instrumental affair that explodes somewhat strangely into the lo-fi indie of 'This Is My Call To Arms', a protest song for today's dispirited twenty-somethings that lets you know what this record is truly about, at least lyrically and hopefully leaves the listener less bemused as to the point Napoleon IIrd is trying to get across. 'Hit Schmooze For Me' is a perfect soundtrack to the life of anyone striving away at an art in their free time in the hope of one day spending their life doing what they love instead of slogging away in a dead-end job their degree seems to have lead solely towards: 'This is not my life / It's just my day job / The way I pay the rent'.
In 'Defibrillator' there are definite traces of a Bloc Party influence (at least of their early material) in the shuddering beats and semi-spoken vocals; and Napoleon IIIrd is not unlikely to find fans from a similar base to Bloc Party, although his sound is more experimental and certainly more varied. 'Guys In Bands' and 'Anti Patria' for example owe more than a small debt to folk although combine jangly guitars and running beats with melancholy vocals in a way that is impossible not to find affecting. In 'Kate's Song' we encounter yet another musical style, that of the stripped down, lo-fi love song. It's almost choral at times vocals and plucked backdrop do not make for the album's most catchy track, but it's certainly a tender song and one can only admire Napoleon IIIrd for having the courage to open his heart so wide on record.
'In Debt To' is one of the most promising solo artist albums to be released this year. At times Napoleon IIIrd overdoes certain effects, in 'What We Have Here Is Ending' for example the electronic sounds can feel claustrophobic and seem "too much, too soon"; and there is such a variety of styles that it's inevitable Napoleon IIIrd will in future refine a fewer number, but his lyrics and innovation remain astonishing and as far as raw talent goes, this is as good as it gets.