Tuesday, 6 November 2012

reviews: darren hayman and the long parliament, jon derosa, guided by voices

Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament - The Violence (***)

For the concluding instalment of his ‘Essex trilogy’, Darren Hayman rewinds the clock a few hundred years. The first two parts surveyed the songwriter’s home county as it is now, his typically incisive vignettes encompassing new towns and joyrides (amongst other things). The Violence inhabits a somewhat different landscape, taking as its concept the 17th century witch trials that sent hundreds to the gallows.

The presiding tone is understandably melancholic, both lyrically and musically. Consider Elizabeth Clarke: named after (and told from the perspective of) an 80-year-old woman amongst the first to hang, its chorus of “who’s going to feed my dog... who’s going to pull my ankle when I swing?” sung over what sounds like the creaking of the hangman’s scaffold, finds sad poetry in small details. It’s a skill demonstrated repeatedly across the album’s twenty tracks, and despite occasional filler-pieces, Hayman’s historical odyssey is never a trial.

Out now

Jon DeRosa - A Wolf in Preacher's Clothes (****)

When Jon DeRosa croons “don’t say goodnight” in the song of the same name – his rich voice tempting an unnamed companion for one last drink in an emptying bar-room – the soulful seduction puts into images A Wolf...'s overriding atmosphere. Continuing the romantic night-music style established on last year’s Anchored EP, DeRosa’s first album under his own name confirms the New Jerseyite as an estimable find.

Both lyrics and delivery of True Men convey vintage interests (name-checking Robert Mitchum and William Holden and smoothly singing “I’ve played the part, I’ve played the fool” like a lovesick Sinatra), as does a smoky, jazz-flecked version of The Blue Nile’s Easter Parade. Elsewhere, there are echoes of Stephin Merritt (with whom DeRosa worked on Showtunes) and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, so while it would be a push to describe this as a unique record, it’s no exaggeration to call it an excellent one.
Out now

Guided By Voices - The Bears for Lunch (***)

Usually when a treasured act reforms, they hit the road, give fans an opportunity to hear the hits, and then go back to whatever it was they were doing beforehand, bank balances replenished and legacy topped up. Guided By Voices do things differently, with The Bears for Lunch their third album of 2012 – that’s 61 songs in 11 months (plus two solo albums from bandleader Robert Pollard to boot). Yet somehow, quantity hasn’t totally eclipsed quality.

Opener King Arthur the Red gets everything right, its crunchy guitar solos setting a powerhouse pace. But Pollard never met an idea he didn’t consider worth committing to tape, and disposable tracks like Have a Jug could have done with spending a little longer at draft stage. In a parallel universe, Guided By Voices spent 2012 lapping up praise for one awesome album; instead, they settled for a trio of pretty good ones.

Out 12th November 

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