Richard James - The Seven Sleepers Den

"It might appear on first listen that this is a pleasant but ultimately insubstantial album. You would be wrong: the songs have immediacy but they also linger long after having listened to them. Gorky's are dead. Long live the Gorkies."

Richard James – The Seven Sleepers Den


 


Gorky's are no more: rejoice? Well, no, the demise of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci can never be a cause for rejoicing. However, if in their place we are presented with albums as good as The Seven Sleepers Den by Richard James (founder member of the Gorky's), then at least our sadness will be tempered. Make no bones about it: this is a great album. Head Gorky Euros Child's debut album Chops (reviewed elsewhere) was something of a curate's egg – good in parts but wilfully uneven and sketchy in others. Richard James has created an album that maintains the Gorky's playfulness and sense of place, but which has also presents a more personal and more polished set of songs.


 


The album opens with Catedral – Intro. A church choir sings, over which someone intermittently coughs. Slowly an acoustic guitar is introduced and the singing (but not the cough) fades away. The song effectively leads into the first proper track, Tir A Mor. Amongst the sound of waves an acoustic guitar plays and James' gentle voice sings. Subtle arrangements embellish the simple tune that reminds one of Eureka / Bad Timing era Jim O'Rourke. My Heart's On Fire follows and it is easily one of the standout tracks on the album. It is a beautiful pop song and is as good as anything the Gorky's ever did. This is praise indeed. I Wait For Your Love features the pastoral sound that in part characterised The Gorky's. Drums imitate the sea and a harmonica takes the lead. Elsewhere Wanna See You Die is a glorious, riotous stomp of a song that shouts and screams for a couple of minutes before trailing away into a set of electronic squiggles. It's fun but slightly out of place as the rest of the album is laid-back and gentle. It is folky in places, almost dreamy in others. It is also a very confident album; confident in the sense that James' appears to know exactly what he wants from the album. On songs like Headlong the album appears to be timeless too – it sounds as though it could have been written at any time over the last forty years. There's an air of Simon and Garfunkel about it and the song blossoms once the beautiful chorus appears. Sunday Girl lollops along in a suitably lazy way, all summer sunshine and gentle breezes.


 


The title of the album comes from the Jacobean poet John Donne and the artwork resembles an old penguin book cover. The Seven Sleepers Den is a very accomplished album. Through the title, the artwork and the songs it conveys an atmosphere that is hard to explain. It might appear on first listen that this is a pleasant but ultimately insubstantial album. You would be wrong: the songs have immediacy but they also linger long after having listened to them. Gorky's are dead. Long live the Gorkies.