Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Ashes On The Fire
Review of Richard Hawley's Truelove's Gutter
richardhawley.co.ukRichard Hawley is one of those rare artists for whom when I’m in the mood to hear their stuff, I can reach for pretty much any one of their records and it will hit the spot. It helps that there’s not really anyone else out there doing what he does these days – lush, romantic pop drawn from a pre-Beatles era, deeply beholden to the early days of American rock and rockabilly and yet undeniably English, all delivered with his rich baritone and incomparable guitarwork. At his best, Hawley is heart-rendingly beautiful and luckily for his fans, he’s rarely not at his best.
Don’t take my earlier comment about not caring which Hawley record I hear as meaning they’re indistinct or interchangeable, though. For while he has remained largely consistent in style throughout his solo career (early jobs included stints with The Longpigs and Pulp), each album has its own definite character and his sixth record, Truelove’s Gutter, is no exception. While 2007’s Lady’s Bridge was a more extroverted affair – string-laden, infused with a sense of whimsy and containing a couple of romping singles – Gutter steps off the streets and into the parlour, an altogether more intimate record and at the same time, even bigger than its predecessor.
Though the record continues Hawley’s tradition of naming his records for landmarks in his hometown of Sheffield, the imagery it evokes is also appropriate to the emotional content within. Love is the album’s running theme, but not necessarily in the glossy romantic sense – instead it looks at the reality of it, fraught with rejection and regret, weariness and wariness, melancholic without giving way to cynicism and still given to moments of tenderness. Hawley (or his characters, at least) has been through the wringer and yet still believes enough to get back up. The record’s production and arrangement contributes to this darker, more introspective mood. Each of the eight songs flows effortlessly into the next and it largely eschews the big-band approach in favour of a more atmospheric one, suffused with esoteric instruments you may not necessarily hear but certainly feel. It’s a thing of beauty, but then it’s a Richard Hawley record. Of course it is.
The California Chronicle, The Sheffield Telegraph, The Guardian and The Scotland Herald all have features on Hawley while Magnet solicited a Q&A with the artist in exchange for making him guest editor for the week – already their website has been privy to Hawley’s musings on topics such as The Velvet Underground, The 13th Floor Elevators and John Steinbeck.
One of the best bits of news I’ve heard in a while came yesterday in the form of a dispatch from Leeds’ Sky Larkin – namely that they were giving away a new digital single entitled “Smarts” and that they were embarking on a North American tour this Fall – that includes a Toronto date! They’ll be at the Cameron House on October 28 with Peggy Sue and while I missed their Toronto debut supporting Los Campesinos! in April, I did see them at SxSW so I know what I speak of when I say they will destroy the place. In the very best sense.
And speaking of Los Campesinos!, with Aleks Campsinos! returned to civilian life and college, they’ve enlisted the younger sister of frontman Gareth to take her place. They made a fun little video introducing Kim Campesinos! to the world.
Ear Farm talks to The Clientele, whose new album Bonfires On The Heath is out October 6 but is streaming in its entirety now at Merge. There’s also a new video of the band performing this Summer at Merge XX and bassist James Hornsey assembled a mixtape for NYLON.
Fanfarlo are interviewed by Music Snobbery and declared “ones to watch” by Clash. They’ve just wrapped a short US tour but will be back – to New York at least – for CMJ. Hopefully they’ll do some more dates while they’re over here.
Video: Ian Brown – “Stellify”
Artrocker talks to Ian McCulloch and The Dumbing Of America to Will Sargent about Echo & The Bunnymen’s new album The Fountain, out October 12. They’ll be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre performing Ocean Rain orchestrally on October 20. Update: Just got an MP3 of the first single from the new record!