ITALY: L'Eden dei lunatici - Umberto Palazzo
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
A chilled-out selection of enjoyable rock tunes that entertain, if not delight
Despite having been released in 2020, L’Eden dei lunatici by Italian singer-songwriter Umberto Palazzo has a distinctly 90s indie feel to it, with its apparent influences being The Strokes, Blur and Oasis. This is not such a surprise when one takes into account Palazzo’s musical origins. Palazzo was a member of Italian rock band Massimo Volume (Maximum Volume in English) who rose to fame in Italy in the early 1990s, before ultimately disbanding in the 2000s. Yet this album is very different to the music he put out with his former band. The work of Massimo Volume could more readily be categorised as art rock or post rock, with its influences being more in the tradition on The Velvet Underground and The Cure. With L’eden dei lunatici, Palazzo shows a softer, more melodic side to his musical sensibilities, and while it isn’t an album that rocks the boat or reinvents the wheel, it’s a very enjoyable piece of work, with many catchy and memorable tunes within it. Palazzo shows a real strength for song writing, even if it doesn’t quite reach any sublime highs that one might expect from such a seasoned performer.
“All of this playing around with styles and genres allows the album to remain fresh and interesting, as well as permitting it to offer different things to different people.”
The immediate vibe of the album is relaxed, chilled, low key. The mellow sounds of Palazzo’s guitar mix nicely with his slow drawl of a singing voice that almost veers into an irritating talk-singing style at points, but he never goes full William Shatner, which is thankful. Even the funkier tracks, like La baia, are not the sort of funky tracks that make you want to get up and dance like its 1999, they are more contemplative and slow-paced, like something you’d hear on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, though it must be said, not as good. Elements of his post-rock origins can be heard as well on this album, in particular the song L’unica richezza, which has a very spaced out sound, with flanged guitars and futuristic synths. Then, in the following song which is the title track, once again we’re in britpop-esque territory, with an acoustic rock song which I find to be one of the best on the album. The slow build-up alongside the gradual introduction of a full band works nicely to create a sense of excitement fitting for a song about summer holidays. Then we have Rita qualcosa, another song about misspent youth, done in an acoustic style reminiscent of Paul Simon’s solo work, with a whistling refrain not dissimilar from the classic folk-rock tune Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. All of this playing around with styles and genres allows the album to remain fresh and interesting, as well as permitting it to offer different things to different people. Don’t like his lethargic funk? That’s fine, his acoustic pop rock might suit, or perhaps his riffs on space age rock.
Overall, the album is very enjoyable and accomplished even though it doesn’t quite reach stratospheric heights. There are many good songs, and no bad ones, which is always a good sign. But equally, I found there to be no great songs, no songs that are irresistible and draw me back to listening to them again and again (though to be fair, the title track comes close). And for all the experimentation in genre, there is no experimentation in tone - he keeps the low-key mood throughout, and after a while I wanted him to show a more lively side. Yet, I don’t mean to do the man a disservice. I like the album a lot. It does what it sets out to do, which is entertain, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, something I appreciate more and more as I delve deeper into the world of albums each day. Palazzo’s music manages to maintain interest throughout, and it is more than possible that on a subsequent album he will be able to truly impress with his knack for mixing and matching genres.