A kind of great Carpenters album

Published April 08, 2011

Reading the Little Girl Blue book, as blogged about the other day, sent me off on a Carpenters binge. I’ve been re-watching documentaries, browsing the good ol’ www, and, of course, listened to their music. Which got me thinking about how their music is perceived. I agree with Richard Carpenter when he says that “soft” doesn’t necessarily equal “bland”, and Carpenters are a good example of that, although to these ears they did stumble into bland territory on a few occasions.

However, I have to disagree with the general opinion of the 1976 release A Kind Of Hush, which seems to be Carpenters’ most-maligned studio album – the one that even die-hard Carpenters fans feel is bland. Even Richard Carpenter himself dislikes this album. Well, I have to admit that for listening from start to finish, this is my favourite Carpenters album. Remove ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ from the track list, and add the outtake ‘Ordinary Fool’ (not released until 1983), and it’s a near-perfect album. The song that’s often held up as the low-point of the album, ‘Goofus’, is one I absolutely love, just because it’s such a weird choice of song and they still manage to make something of it (I will admit I go through periods when all I want to listen to is ‘Goofus’) – although it’s definitely an album track and I have to wonder what Carpenters and A&M were thinking when they decided that it should be released as a single (was anyone really surprised when it only reached #56 on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart?).

What I particularly like about the Kind Of Hush album is its melancholia, its toned-down pensiveness, for want of a better word. Except for ‘Breaking Up...”, the strained jollity that sometimes marred their work, is absent from this album. By 1976 Carpenters were tired, and they do sound tired – not in the “over-the-hill” sense, just like they need to take a step back and think things over for a while.

So if you’re a Carpenters fan and have decided to neglect this album, based on what you may have read in books, on the Internet or elsewhere, I say: give it a shot – you may be surprised.