Geoff Downes and Chris Braide released “ Pictures Of You”, their debut album as The Downes Braide Association, in 2012 after meeting at a Buggles reunion show in 2010.  Downes was already familiar to me from his work with The Buggles – I’m a big fan of their Age Of Plastic album – Yes and Asia.  Chris Braide was a new name to me but he has written and produced songs for Beyoncé, Lana del Ray, Paloma Faith, Christina Aguilera and Marc Almond amongst others so his pop pedigree is beyond doubt.doznes

Snatching time between their other commitments, the pair have now released the follow-up album Suburban Ghosts.  There is no sense, however, that this album has been quickly cobbled together; this is a well crafted pop/rock album with a strong theme running through its 12 tracks.  There are strong traces of Buggles’ widescreen melody and high concept production here and that is a good thing.  Downes also cites the 60’s and 70’s musical scenes of Manchester and Liverpool as an influence “…right the way from the Beatles to 10cc. But that’s only a small part of the picture…I find it quite difficult to to describe in words as it’s a natural creation that comes from our collective hearts.”

Braide’s vocals – like a less breathy Neil Tennant or Al Stewart – are given a slightly otherworldly twist thanks to judicious use of some light auto tuning here and there and the synthetic elements of Downes and Braide’s keyboards and programming are balanced by contributions from Lee Pomeroy on bass guitar and Dave Gregory on guitar.

Braide describes the album as being about isolation and loneliness in small town suburbia – leaving to find something bigger and then returning to confront ghosts from the past.  Despite the overarching theme though, the twelve tracks stand on their own merits.  This may well be a kind of concept album but it’s not one just for Prog fans.  Indeed, pure Prog fans might find its pop sensibility and lack of bombast and self importance a bit off putting.  For fans of melodic synth pop though, Suburban Ghosts comes highly recommended.

John Scott

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