open sesame [mushroom] 
leonardo's bride

'no longer simply sweet and soft acoustic pop, this is lush pop with force'

two months ago leonardo's bride previewed 'open sesame' at the basement and began their first major run of performances after at least a year. once a busking duo comprising principal songwriter dean manning and singer abby dobson, they became the warmly acoustic, strum & drum, pop quartet leonardo's bride in 1996 [their single 'even when i'm sleeping' from their debut album 'angel blood', nominated for an aria in 1997]. at the basement,
they had changed again.

for a start, they were standing on their own two feet. literally. gone were the stools and cushions, the candlesticks and drapes that has seen them embraced as sydney's ambassadors of the so called 'soft sound'. not quite a rock band, their new single 'sonic' with it's hummingbirds and cure feel demonstrated that they would be ready when thrown to the lions [or, in this case, the loins] as the support act for tom jones a fortnight later. they were something more powerful and 'open sesame' confirms this.

dobson's dreamy yet powerful delivery of manning's beatlesy melodies, his tales of persecution and adoration [these are love songs and almost exclusively there is a 'you' being suffered, worshipped and, sublimely in 'blue gone green', both at the same time] is, necessarily, to the fore. but the drummer jon howell's tight, spare fills and patrick hydnes's elegant, sympathetic bass are more profoundly felt, more dominant than before, particularly so on 'dreamship', 'that boy' and dobson's sole composition 'begging bowl'. the band has dobson centre stage and leonardo's bride are better for it.

'open sesame' has benefited from other inputs too, specifically jackie orszaczky's string arrangements and james cadsky's production. if leonardo's have a weakness it's a tendency towards gluey earnestness, a treacliness in expression; sawing strings risk sugaring the mix further. here, however, they embolden. dobson has her knockers too in this area. while her voice is a marvelous instrument [one marvels at its resonance and breadth] there's a suggestion she's still learning how to play it. dobson sometimes babys her phrasing when reaching to express tenderness: an attenuated 'oooh' becomes an elongated 'cheeew'.

'open sesame' is a strong fresh album from a band who rewarded expectations by taking care to take their time. - matt buchanan