Friday 19 April 2013

Sulk - Graceless

Album review by

A few years ago we began following a band called The Ruling Class. They were ace, kind of baggy revivalists but with great tunes. 'Flowers' was a record of the week, as was Marian Shrine' and we very nearly put them in our "ones to watch" list for the following year, but as things had gone a little quiet we didn't know what was going on, so we left them off. A few years on, we got wind of a band called Sulk who had a similar retro sound. Reading up on them, it turned out to be one and the same. For whatever reason, The Ruling Class had become Sulk, and not only that, major plans were underfoot.

Not too long ago, the excellent 'Flowers' was given another release as a single, only now it had been rerecorded and sounded better. Skip forward a couple of months and 'Graceless' landed in our letterbox. When you get bombarded with music every day, it can be difficult to get excited about hearing every new release, but not this one. It went straight into the CD player. After a few years perfecting their sound, surely this was going to be a corker? Peace have recently been praised for their (very good) album which borrows some baggy sounds, and The Horrors also took these on board for 'Skying'. Maybe some kind of revival was on it's way.

So is it? Frankly, who cares what other bands are doing when you've got an album like 'Graceless' to listen too. Had this been released in 1990 it would be an all-time classic, but other bands beat them to the sound, so it will be merely a hugely competent reevaluation. Sulk don't sound like many of those bands; they don't sound like The Stone Roses, or particularly like The Happy Mondays. Perhaps The Charlatans around the time of 'Some Friendly' is closest (minus the Hammond). But in truth, were it not so derivative, 'Graceless' is better than everything mentioned above (barring The Roses debut), even if those bands did the groundwork to make this record possible.

This doesn't sound like a debut album, it sounds like a greatest hits; every song here could be a single, it's as solid an album as we've heard all year. It's a bit of a disservice calling them baggy when they take in elements of punk, psychedelia and shoegaze too. But they're overflowing with pure tunes and groovy beats. The ringing guitar that ushers in 'Sleeping Beauty' is a mainstay, the vocals are soft yet forefront and the rhythm section is as tight as a duck's arse. Doing a track-by-track dissection is a bit of a waste as they're pretty well equal and follow this blueprint, although it's notable how varied such a set format can become. The best thing to do is simply turn on, tune in and bliss-out. A scorcher.

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