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Chris Connelly: Private Education (Invisible/Caroline)

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Stripping everything but voice, guitar, and spare electronic drums, it’s a rather stark work.

For many, Chris Connelly’s introduction came via his part-time gig with Ministry, while serving as a secondary vocalist with them at the height of the band’s popularity. He flitted through other Luxa Pan productions, including the Revolting Cocks, eventually becoming a semi-permanent fixture in Martin Atkins’ revolving door of Pigface. When moonlighting with that group—or the affiliated the Damage Manual—he could seem little more a musical mercenary, albeit an extremely talented one. He’s been able to make his powerful-yet-supple, Bowie-esque voice cut through the din around him, no matter how aggressive the backing.

Over the past decade, though, Connelly’s also produced a half-dozen solo works, mostly exploring terrain far away from the paths traveled by his other projects. Under his own name and/or The Bells, Connelly’s softer side has proven revelatory, particularly his most-realized works, two-record Bells output: The Ultimate Seaside Companion and Blonde Exodus.

On his latest, Private Education, Connelly foregoes the dense backing associated with some of his latest projects. Stripping everything but voice, guitar, and spare electronic drums, it’s a rather stark work. His voice remains a beautiful thing, but the songs suffer a bit from that lack of extra instrumentation; even the drums sound a touch dated, while violin, piano, and organic percussion are missed. And these aren’t short works, either; the eight cuts average a shade under six minutes apiece.

Perhaps it was a desire to record and execute songs quickly, or a lack of funds, or something altogether different. In any case, the beguiling, adult pop that Connelly’s achieved of late isn’t necessarily reached this time out. True fans will forgive the lateral move.

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