"Before you all decide that its just me getting hot under the collar about another LP full of female shrieking and moaning, and decide to leave me to my absurd musical folly let me tell you that this release is packed full of cracking rock tunes, that's right, choons."
Phew this is emotionally pounding stuff I'll have you know, eschewing the same breathless intensity of Horses (I wonder if the horse connection – via the cover artwork - is a deliberate "nod"). A measure of this intensity is seen in the opening lyrics on Something of an End; "When You came jumpin' down the stairs, Screamin' bloody awful". Yes, its heavy, dramatic stuff, lyrics of pain anguish and encounters with nature – Ted Hughes style. Musically it's fair to say that there are lots of pauses and silences that are shattered by very loud guitar bursts. Singer Shara Worden's vocals are pitched between a quavering whispering alto and a full throated siren call. She certainly possesses some emotional range, that's for sure. Before you all decide that its just me getting hot under the collar about another LP full of female shrieking and moaning, and decide to leave me to my absurd musical folly let me tell you that this release is packed full of cracking rock tunes, that's right, choons. Golden Star is a purposeful track with a lovely refrain driven on by an incessant pitter-patter of the drums and given light and shade through judicious use of strings.
Elsewhere Gone Away impressively suggests vast swathes of Victorian romantic gloom; possibly the most affecting left alone love song since Cope's Me Singing. Dragonfly on the other hand is a song that feels like it could have been written in about 1947, it's seems so removed from the present. Somehow the arrangement's latent Jeff Buckley-isms are kept well under wraps, producing a brilliant, languorous piece of music; full of tender sentiments and feeling. Freak Out is a fabulous concoction of shrieking and menacing guitar undertones. Everything is pushed up close in the mix, giving off an impressively claustrophobic feel. There's a great "obligatory weird bit" near the track's end which many will find a bit too pretentious, but I enjoyed it nonetheless...
We Were Sparkling is a maudlin, affecting ballad, accompanied by Duritti column-style guitars whilst Disappear is a quiet and very magical track with a soaring chorus and very spooky strings. A point to note about the strings; they do sound as if they have been deliberately manipulated to sound as they'd been lifted from a 1940s film score. They have that murky, foggy glamour...
If I had to pick a favourite track it would have to be the last, The Workhorse. This is a frankly weird song about the death of a horse that somehow becomes a dark, slumberous epic, sparsely populated by instruments. Quite why I can't fathom; but it is incredibly reminiscent of early Roxy, the Bogus Man, that kind of thing... Hell it's good.
So there you are. Expect tenseness, expect intensity, expect sparseness and the odd Ted Hughes-ism, but prepare to be very pleasantly surprised.
Words: Richard Foster.