THIS WEEK’S NEW ALBUMS REVIEWED | FEATURE
Winter of Discontent (Hinterland Creative)
The stars have aligned for this touching and revealing album from British/Somali singer-songwriter Knomad Spock who sets the dichotomy of his dual heritage – coming from two worlds but belonging to neither – as the constellations by which he navigates his artistic seas. After 10 years of moving through life as a poet and performer, Spock found himself in St Mary’s Space on the Isle of Lismore with producer Jamie Smith. With four days to fill, he decided to commit a decade’s worth of ideas to tape, and Winter Of Discontent is the remarkable result.
The title and closing track notwithstanding, this is a near-perfect immersion in a singular world – a world where butterflies are renamed, in honour of their emergence, to delicately fingerpicked guitar lines; a world where mountains and oceans converse over pounding drums, only to collapse away to untethered strings and synths. There is a beauty in the uncertainty that shows Spock and Smith to be brave, uncompromising makers of music who don’t present songs as signposts to follow but perhaps as points in the sky with which to somehow find your way home, wherever that may be.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
Setting The Dog On The Post Punk Postman (Cherry Red)
An object lesson in the dangers of making judgements based on first impressions. The name of Luke Haines’ new album plus song titles like When I Owned The Scarecrow, Two Japanese Freaks Talking About Mao And Nixon and Andrea Dworkin’s Knees promise much, only for the record to deliver a succession of insipid, pseudo-eccentric, painfully embarrassing clunkers – U Boat Baby aside (perhaps).
Listening to …Post Punk Postman is like being trapped in a lift with someone who thinks they’re much funnier than they actually are. It’s staggering that no one thought to dissuade Haines from committing Yes, Mr Pumpkin or the cringingly lascivious I Just Want To Be Buried to tape. Never Going Back To Liverpool? Probably because you’ll be laughed out of town by Half Man Half Biscuit, mate.
Do yourself a favour and invest in Haines’ book Bad Vibes: Britpop And My Part In Its Downfall instead. Written before he started styling himself on George Galloway, it’s a self-aggrandising, embittered, withering and genuinely hilarious read.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
She Walks In Beauty (BMG)
Marianne Faithfull has survived addiction, homelessness and worse to bounce back and make seminal albums such as Broken English, Strange Weather and Negative Capability. Her 22nd and latest, She Walks In Beauty, was a hair’s breadth away from becoming a posthumous release. Cobbled together from recordings that started in 2020 with Bad Seed and film score composer Warren Ellis, everything ground to a worrying halt when Faithfull was hospitalised with COVID-19. She survived, and triumphantly went on to see She Walks In Beauty completed.
It’s a spoken word album, with Faithfull reciting her favourite poems by Lord Byron, John Keats and William Wordsworth. The poems as a whole have mortality at their heart, with Ellis providing a backdrop of ambient cinematic beauty and Brian Eno adding some textural sonic flourishes. If you liked Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ Carnage or Faithfull’s previous album Negative Capability, you are not going to be disappointed with the striking magnificence of She Walks In Beauty.
words DAVID NOBAKHT
It’s been 16 years since Matt Sweeney and Will Oldham [pictured, top] got together for their first acclaimed album, Superwolf and now comes its much anticipated, pluralised follow-up, Superwolves. Opener Make Worry For Me wrongfoots those expecting lilting alt-country and instead offers a brooding, building atmosphere of descending guitar notes and Hammond organ – reminiscent of 90s Seattle faves Soundgarden, of all people.
From here, the album settles into a nice line of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy compositions – including the cheeriest song with the title Hall Of Death you’re ever likely to hear – meandering and wordy on first listen, yet eventually burrowing deep into your pleasure centres. Anchoring the album is centrepiece I Am A Youth Inclined To Ramble: a gorgeous take on Irishman Paul Brady’s song (though Oldham brilliantly trades out the “Jamie” who Brady sang about in exchange for his own “Shorty”) that isn’t only an album highlight but a career-best vocal by the Bonnie Prince.
words ADAM JONES
Endless Arcade (PeMa)
It’s a shame that Teenage Fanclub’s 10th studio album wasn’t released a little earlier to see us through an especially stay-at-home winter. Seven-minute opener Home, with its Hammond chords and jaunty piano lines, emits a nice cosy glow, silhouetting the chugging guitars, which slowly unfurl into an expanded laidback guitar solo: think Neil Young in Crazy Horse, or the genial end of Wilco. Co-founder Gerard Love and his silkier tones departed the band in 2018, purportedly due to his reticence for the frequent flying which turned out to be rendered moot by 2020’s grounding. Euros Childs, who’s previously collaborated with the band’s Norman Blake in Jonny, joins to add his keyboard and vox, adding a nice synth riff that peps up the mildly stodgy title track.
With the theme of a city that you can wander through and a band in middle age, this is definitely the Fannies hitting maturity with a wistful look over their shoulders. Warm Embrace is a powerpop nugget, this year’s model of Elvis Costello; the guitar on The Sun Won’t Shine On Me chimes like Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe, while In Our Dreams has one of their meatier riffs with synth and acoustic guitars combining to form a lovely melody, sweetening the bitter pang of regret – “I just don’t know what it’s coming to / We lived the dream but we never knew”. I’m More Inclined is more summery vintage pop and Back In The Day sees a band reliving its heyday with plenty of good times ahead.
words CHRIS SEAL