Monday, December 24, 2007

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2007: Number 7

Is it just us who gets suspicious when reviews are imprinted on the artwork?

May you live out reviving interesting times. We talk a lot about the girl group influence and the permeating nostalgia for the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound, but what we recognise as that hallmark sound could just as easily be coming from one female singer rather than three. Although we think of them differently, much of the recorded output of the likes of Sandie Shaw, Brenda Lee, Lulu, Petula Clark, Connie Francis, Cilla Black, Twinkle, Lesley Gore, Little Eva, right through to Carole King, PP Arnold and the sainted Dusty is touched with that same young person's kitchen sink melodrama of love and/or loss, if not Brian Wilson's teenage symphonies to God then certainly teenage symphonies to something other. Seperating angel-voiced Ali Howard from the rest of Lucky Soul is on the whole unwise, but it's these singers that their sound most resembles rather than the Shangri-Las/Ronettes vocal ensembles of glib comparison. Of course this is retro, borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered sixties, but whereas of their main sub-market competitors Camera Obscura widened out to a more classical pop sweep and the Pipettes for the most part remain a better band than recording artiste, Lucky Soul can both take in their predecessors and smartly update them with a good whack of Stax mod-soul when required so it hardly becomes an issue - easy for us to say after half a paragraph of putting them in historical context, but stay with us - so that they, or at least songwriter Andrew Laidlaw, achieve that modern contemporary touch, like a Blondie (not literally) in touch with their roots or a less clever-clever Saint Etienne. You know when we talk about 'pop' in the pejorative? This is pop, it's just 'POP' didn't realise until too late.

Radio-friendly summer anthem it may be, but Add Your Light To Mine Baby's joyous horn-powered blast is in truth something of a red herring as to the theme of the album. It's One Kiss Don't Make A Summer's dreaminess where the cracks appear for the light to shine through, as Howard first dismisses her love as "just a PS on a postcard home" before rhetorically asking "tell me what I'm supposed to do/When the leaves are falling and I lose the pride that stops/The aching inside showing through". From there we're into the longing Struck Dumb and the bruised Motown stomp of Lips Are Unhappy, a joy from the opening bass and tambourine to Howard's coda request we "shake shake shimmy", their own call to arms. If you were being picky you could divide the album into tearstreaked string-laden romanticism and soul girl calls to the dancefloor, but the key is that they pull both off with so much panache and no little skill that there's room to spare - a note at this point for the fine work of co-producer, engineer and mixer George Shilling. My Darling, Anything works in a couple of musical jokes and the album's most poetic heartbreak, Baby I'm Broke carries a torch for loneliness and The Last Song brings in piano and country guitars and strips away the strings and horns for direct open-heartedness. On the other hand we find Get Outta Town!'s glorious escapist northern soul stomp and Ain't Never Been Cool's soaring call to arms for the disenfranchised, echoing the popists who would not unreasonably suggest that this is the sort of band we've been waiting for for years. Somewhere in the middle lands the perfectly judged title track, both reflecting the upbeat vibrancy and the grace of determination despite everything that "we will not be ignored". And no, although their self-financing worked against them in chart terms, in the greater scheme of things the uncomfortable bliss of Lucky Soul is very easy to fall for completely.

LISTEN ON: The Great Unwanted
WATCH ON: Lips Are Unhappy


My favourite album of 2007 is...

Andrew Laidlaw, Lucky Soul: "I'll be the first to say that I've been particularly poor in listening to new music this year, but I also think it's been a pretty poor year for new music. There's loads of old music I've discovered and could talk about all day but that's no use to you. In fact I was going to give a eulogy on just how great the Midlake album is but then I found out it came out last year. That would be the one I've listened to the most but I'm a bit late on that one. We've had LCD Soundsystem on a fair amount in the office but although I like it, I never really warm to it. Calvin Harris' album is too long and thinks it's too clever. Was really looking forward to the Candie Payne album but much as I like the production, I think it falls a bit short on the song front so I'm going to plump for her label mates' the Coral's Roots And Echoes. It's a really warm record and the song writing is spot on all the way through. It's probably the most accessible record they've made (both my parents and my little brother like it) but it still manages to be weird and off kilter. Sometimes the tone is desperately sad without ever being over the top, you can tell they've been listening to lots of classic Sixties and Seventies dark pop, particularly Scott Walker, Lee Hazlewood and a bit of Stax, there's a fair bit of Seventies period Isley Brothers in there as well as all the usual Love influences but they never sound like anyone but the Coral, which is no mean feat. There's too many bands out there at the moment who don't concentrate on song writing but you can never accuse the Coral of that, they always sound like some effort and thought's been put in, whilst making it sound easy too. Melodically they're on top form, they've still got an amazing way with a chord change and as ever, the lyrics are nice and twisted. Really I like it because of the overall feel of being sat in a warm wooden room with a standard lamp on, the fire burning and rain on the window. Really quite sad but very comforting at the same time. It's a good Autumn/Winter record, I'm gonna make sure I listen to with just the Christamas tree lights on and some mulled wine. In fact, yeah, Roots And Echoes = mulled wine."

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