You know when hear something on the radio and have to know what it is immediately? Everything gets dropped and you loiter, waiting for the artist and title to be revealed. Gideon Coe, esteemed music lover and world’s greatest living broadcaster, was covering for Shaun Keaveny on 6 Music’s breakfast show. His evening programme is something I have to ration my exposure to, for fear of incessant want lists, but sometimes I weaken and his early appearance caught me unawares. And so normal service was resumed, as a sun-kissed, melodic strummer caught my attention. It reminded me a little of The Go-Betweens and something else about it was curiously familiar. Whatever it was, I needed to hear it again. And again. I’ll confess that my first reaction upon hearing it was ‘Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone’ by The Electric Soft Parade was ‘are they really still going?’ They really are, you know.
It’s been more than a decade since the glorious indie belter ‘Empty At The End’ briefly made this lot the ‘next big thing’. They had a couple of other decent singles around that point but it wasn’t quite to be and, while brothers Alex and Thomas White have continued to put out music at infrequent intervals, fourth album “IDIOTS” arrived with little fanfare. And yet, this really is a noteworthy, beautifully realised record. It’s a beautifully sunny, unashamedly melodic tour de force which pitches up somewhere between a fevered Beatles obsession and a well-loved pile of albums by the afore-mentioned Go-Betweens. Just as Teenage Fanclub have the rare knack of sweetening their songs without making them sickly, ESP happily go through the gears every time, throwing out key changes and layered harmonies like they’ve got an expiry date.
That first single is a great place to start, but the quality is unrelenting. ‘Mr Mitchell’ wears its influences rather more brazenly on its sleeve than other tracks, while ambitious centrepiece ‘The Corner Of Highdown And Montefiore’ should keep Field Music fans happy during their fallow year. Lyrically, the themes are well worn but you have to wonder if this is part of the conscious aping of those who have inspired them. “The sun never shined on me until you came around” may not be a new sentiment, but played out at the heart of a glistening chorus it can subdue the most miserly cynic. Some records make you think, some records redefine whole genres and some, like “IDIOTS”, just make you very happy.