Here are the three reviews for which I’m responsible in this month’s Clash Magazine. Although there are only three this time out (seven next month, fact fans) what a three they are. I’m including my review of ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’, despite the much longer piece I recently published as this is me reviewing it for a wider audience with many, many fewer words. Roughly the same end result though!
TEENAGE FANCLUB – ‘Shadows’ (PeMa)
Finally, the Fannies explore their penchant for prog-rock and German psychedelia! Ok, so it actually sounds very much like a classic Teenage Fanclub record, but that should be enough to satisfy the discerning ear. After the relatively stripped back ‘Man Made’, ‘Shadows’ returns to the lush, meticulously crafted sound of previous albums. Lyrically, they’re no slouches but, as with so many of their wonderful albums, it’s the chiming guitars and angelic harmonies that truly revitalise the soul. ‘Shock And Awe’, replete with soaring guitar break, is a highlight, while their list of classic singles grows with the cheery ‘Baby Lee’. 9/10
If ever it’s possible to find oneself wanting another 900 words or so to explore an album properly, it was with this one. Keep an eye out for another ‘New Music Monday’ coming soon.. It’s a belter.
THE DIVINE COMEDY – ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ (DIVINE COMEDY RECORDS)
I won’t piss about. This album won’t convert anyone who previously found Neil Hannon’s band unpalatable. Indeed, it rather gleefully ramps up the eccentricity and delights in the study of curious characters of all ages and classes. At times it gets a little too silly, the lazy implied rhyming slang in ‘The Complete Banker’ the true lyrical nadir, but ‘Down In The Street’ and ‘When A Man Cries’ rank up there with Hannon’s finest grand production numbers, the former a shape-shifting musical avalanche which gets things underway. Album closer ‘I Like’ could even displace ‘National Express’ as his annoying pop smash. 7/10
I opted not to make a big thing of ‘Can You Stand Upon One Leg’ in this review as a) I had bugger all words in the first place b) it might have completely turned people away. It was tricky trying to contextualise this record beyond TDC fans, but I think it’s a relatively fair assessment. The recent, larger piece explains my thoughts in far greater detail.
TRACEY THORN – ‘Love And Its Opposite’ (STRANGE FEELING)
The distinctive voice of Everything But The Girl, Thorn’s almost effortless vocal grace has been a compelling part of the musical landscape for nearly thirty years. From electronic folk to warm, soulful country, the songs on what is only her third solo record tackle the pitfalls of middle age with a stark honesty, tempered by restrained optimism. ‘Long White Dress’ and ‘Singles Bar’, subject matter made clear from the off, are highlights; the former is mellow and wistful, with a delightfully lilting chorus, while the latter radiates the fatigued disenchantment of somebody lacking motivation in the unfulfilled pursuit of love. 7/10
This might actually be an 8 in the fullness of time, but what do numbers matter anyway? There are some quite magical bits on this, not least the two tracks mentioned in the review. Well worth a listen and a charmingly stripped back accompaniment to one of pop’s most recognisable voices.