A shade apologetically Tom Craven says his repertoire contains “the inevitable acoustic stuff” – the consequence I imagine of his influences including Idlewild, Turin Brakes and Alanis Morrisette.
In so doing he reveals an awareness that mid-nineties britpop morphed into late-ninetiesbuskrock and spawned an ocean of earnest acoustic noodlers largely indistinguishable from one another among their six minute strumathons of morose introspection.
Happily for Mr Craven, advance apologies prove unwarranted. Of the material he’s made available to hear on Soundcloud, imho his most memorable set is 2010’s Ocean EP. Acoustic!
With one, sometimes two guitars as the sole backing for Craven’s vocals, his melodies and lyrics are laid bare to stand or fall on their own merit. They don’t fall.
Subject matter is varied and the tunes and voice are strong. The guitar playing is confident, assured and dynamic enough to hold the listener’s attention from start to finish – no mean feat on an all acoustic ep. You get urgency of sound and optimism of spirit in Heads Rule Hearts followed by their flipsides – a ballad of loss and despair that is A Last Time For Everything.
Then the track which has left the biggest impression on me – (Parisian) Trial By Fire. This compares well with some of the stuff James Dean Bradfield does on the Manics’ Everything Must Go album – I’m thinking in particular here of songs such as Removables and Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier.
It’s spiky, angry even, and its most memorable line describes a character in the song as being “likeshowrooms on the Champs Elysees – unnecessarily antisocial”. Good eh?
Tom Craven plays Trestle Arts Base on January 25th 2014.
Rich layers of sweet sounding goodness await at http://www.brokenboat.co.uk/ Here you’ll find a sample of the music of St Albans and Harpenden’s Broken Boat.
Broken Boat’s sound brims over with a sunshine and joie de vivre that’s summed up in the refrain of “I’m aliiiive” towards the end of Small Defeats, the first of the two songs on their website sampler.
There’s Hammond organ throughout, a bit of jaunty brass (a real case of what’s-not-to-like?) and it’s a gift for any band to have the option, which this band does, of equally good male and female vocals. Broken Boat make use of them to quite thrilling effect in the second song, Morning Rain.
Morning Rain is a duet, if you like, featuring these two components alternating the lead at first before joining on the melody in unison an octave apart and then together winding two distinctly separate yet entwined vocal lines. With accordian featuring strongly and a small dollop of brass again, this is a collage of a track that succeeds in delivering a wealth of audio colours and textures and, like Small Defeats, by its close has left you feeling undeniably uplifted.
Accomplished folk-pop. https://soundcloud.com/brokenboat/sets/peace-and-quiet-sample
The pang of unrequited love is apparent from the wistful beginning to the explosion of ache near the end The Best Thing I Never Had, one of a few tracks on Soundcloud by The Neverists, a band from Hertford, Stevenage and London who are recording an album as you read this.
If you’re in the “Radiohead’s music is depressing” camp, then read no further and listen no more to The Neverists, as there is some out and out misery set to music here. Gloriously and elegantly so.
The best songs often take human heartache and present it in such a way as to enthral, and I love how The Neverists do that on this track. Singer Simon Williams’ voice resonates in its mid to lower range a little like Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies).
On November In Brooklyn, Williams’ vocal shows itself capable of a more tender sound on higher notes, a tad like Semisonic’s Dan Wilson. In this song’s key words, “Time doesn’t heal, it just takes its toll” the Neverists’ outlook appears Beckettian in its bleakness but again their music takes sadness and transforms it into something beautiful. Can’t wait for the album.
With thanks to Denise Parsons of Trestle Arts Base for introducing me to these new sounds.