I always look at the press blurb for any band before I put pen to paper, particularly the bit where it says what the musical touchstones and reference points seem to be. It always pays to know what you are getting into. So when I see The Manic Street Preachers, Gang of Four, Josef K, C86, John Peel, The The and That Petrol Emotion all listed, my immediate thought is that someone has broken into my house, gone through my vinyl collection and written an album of music based on the albums which look the most worn.
Then I get real and remember that there is a generation of like-minded souls who grew upon such outsider music (remember, even The Manics were a cult band once) and some of them are still making music in such a vein. Former bIG*fLAME singer and bassist Alan Brown is just such a fellow.
This latest album is a sharp affair, from the serrated guitar sounds of Songs to Die To to the incisive and insightful lyrics of the title track and from the smart and slightly funk grooves of dEBRA 2021 to the sheer indie-infectiousness of A Life More Ordinary. Throughout, it is easy to hear that this is the product of a master of melody and a writer with a fierce intellect.
It’s pop, but not as we know it. Pop of a kind that seemed to fade out of fashion once the post-punk influence waned and the Brit-pop scene went from the sublime to the ridiculous (ie put Oasis on a pedestal and left Pulp on the student circuit for over a decade.) It is knowing pop, pop with a Phd, smart pop, pop which is somehow both infectious and intelligent, musically elegant and lyrically eloquent.
Actually, reading that back, I’m starting to think that it isn’t pop at all and we may need to find a better word for it. But it doesn’t matter what you call it, just buy it. Simple!