Do badgers hibernate? I'm shamefully ignorant on this
Well, what a surprise. Despite having a soft spot for the lad Broudie from his days as Bunnymen producer, and of course, as football anthem maestro, I've always fought shy of the Lightning Seeds who I found too sugary and gooey for my palate. Still, he's the man behind the Zutons' and the Coral's studio controls. It must have been Broudie who inspired the Coral to opt for the crazy Teardrop/Can/Barrett influences adopted on their classic Night Freak and the Sons of Becker last year. And, working with the Coral/Zutons axis seems to have been the spur to shake his lethargy off and create this folksy offering, which is, (of course), as "Liverpool" in style as they come.
Song for No One sets the tone, echoes of the Byrds, maybe, but losing nothing for that. It is a gentle, reflective and harmonious song, make no doubt of that. It also has that poppy seductive bounce in the drumming, similar to that bounce the Stone Roses had when Remi was behind the kit.
As you'd expect from Ian Broudie there is a wistful melancholy present. The simple, bare bones musical backing really helps, allowing the songs to steer clear of the cloying sugary nature that sadly infused most of the Lightning Seeds canon. He Sails Tonight adds some strings and backwards guitar but little else. (Incidentally, there's the Obligatory Ship Reference on this song; after all no Liverpool band would be complete without one. A further aside; this week's competition if you like, name a Liverpool band who NEVER made any mention of Ports, Ships, Seas, Oceans and other Aquaeous Tributaries. But I digress)
What you do get on this album is tremendous songwriting and acute observations. Tales Told is littered with sharply crafted vignettes. A case in point is Smoke Rings. The lyrics "Life looking through smoke rings/Looking at friends who've gone" reeks of a boring afternoon in the pub.
AND, of course, there is the fact that Tales Told has been made with the assistance of the odd Zuton and Coral. It shows. Got No Plans is a jaunty Zutons backing track grafted on to a lovely Broudie melody, with a Coral refrain thrown in for good measure. At this point you start to wonder if he could a spare Bunnyman or Teardrop to do an all star turn.
Always Knocking is another case in point. It drifts pleasantly around the place in a rather drunken, weary, and very Liverpool way. Mr. B tells someone to stop knocking at his door, like a grumpy old badger still sleepy from the winter's hibernation. (Do badgers hibernate? I'm shamefully ignorant on this).
Other highlights are Lipstick, a stately Barrett-esque meander through a park on a wet autumn afternoon. Reminiscent of the slowly revolving figure on the Camberwick Green podium, (remember the character who would be the subject of a certain week's story, revolving on that trumped up cake stand at the end of each episode? You know). Super Cinema is a classic underground stomp; it could be the soundtrack for a cartoon spy thriller starring talking moles as the heroes. Something Street is a lovely 1960s tinged sound-scape, throwing up images of buying chips, or getting wet feet in the queue for the Odeon. A decent false ending also graces this track, so look out.
All in all Tales Told is a great record, and a pleasant surprise. But it's too short. Another five songs and it would have been a truly great album. Still, I love it and I suggest you get it.