One of the joys of being long in the tooth as a reviewer is that you get to watch acts evolve over the years and Wilding has been one of the more enjoyable and rewarding careers to watch. From the sleek and simple lines as a solo singer-songwriter to the brilliant textures that the Lighterthief team wrapped around his already elegant and eloquent songs and finally with a full live band gathered around him, George Wilding could almost be a template of how to kick-start your career as a musician. The lad I used to describe as looking like Nick Drake’s dealer is actually much more astute, much cleverer than his rabbit in the headlights image suggests.
And if you have been on this observational journey as long as I have, Soul Sucker is the perfect e.p. for him to make at this point, the perfect sonic representation of the career path to date. I have always loved his lyrics, that ability to take the love, loss and longing, those youthful urges, those undignified falls from grace and describe them in almost mythological terms. Not the legendary tales of past heroes and mythical deeds but tales of small town denizens, failing and falling, not getting the girl, being broke and down on their luck, walking home alone. But George doesn’t write songs about losers, nothing so mundane. No, when you listen and relate to his songs, you are not a loser, you are a character in an epic poem….about losers.
Mouth Wide Open is the perfect blend of that early troubadour vibe and the sonic drama inherent in his songs which has been slowly brought to fruition on record over the last few years; a balance of groove and grandeur, intelligence and infectiousness writ large, a quintessentially English answer to American heartland rock as if Tom Petty had been born two generations later in the quirky idyll of rural Wiltshire.
The Other Side of The Fence and Dirty Dream Balloon hark back to that debut release Being Ragdollian, the latter in particular having the same twisted, Bowie-esque qualities as the likes of Elephant and also a reminder that in the four years between he has travelled a long way but also, in some ways, not so very far. Forward thinking yet backward glancing too, an irony that suits the artist perfectly. Slip Away is the song, in this collection of great songs, that has the most chart bothering potential, its indie-rock vibes and accessibility should open the right doors and to me it sounds like the encore song at a summer festival set with the sun going down behind the band and the audience, hands in the air, singing back the lyrics word for word.
Every release from an artist should be a step up from the last and Soul Sucker is certainly that. The sound has been allowed to evolve at its own pace rather than beholden to fad or fashion, the lyrics are as poetic, the music as dynamic and hook-laden as ever and the result is an artist, a sound and a band that are ready to go out and get noticed by the audience that they now deserve.