Smash PalaceWith all the influences available to a young man in an accelerated information age, it would be foolish for a cosmopolitan "90s singer-songwriter like Richard Julian to stick to one style. On SMASH PALACE, he doesn"t bother. Where his debut cleaved to an organic, Americana rock & roll sound, the followup throws the rulebook into a blender and lets the pieces fall in a deceptively precise manner. Here he forsakes the singer-fronting-a-band approach for the multi-instrumentalist-run-amok-in-the-studio method of Prince or Beck (both of whose influences can be felt here). With the help of producer/musician Brad Jones and a few talented sessioneers, Julian moves through Leonard Cohenish apocalypse ("The Restless Sea"), Bonnie Raitt-worthy bluesy sass ("Big Big World"), ethereal ballads to rival Jeff Buckley ("As If") and ARMED FORCES-style power pop ("The Second Smallest State"). All this eclecticism might be for naught without the incisive, studied lyricism, sophisticated harmonic sensibilities and smoky, intimate tenor that are the main weapons in Julian"s formidable arsenal. This varied, inspiring album hangs together chiefly due to the strength of Julian"s authoritative artistic vision.