Thursday 24 October 2013

The Wave Pictures - City Forgiveness

Album review by

Following a six-week tour of the US last year alongside Allo Darlin', alt-rock/indie cult heroes The Wave Pictures absorbed plenty of American culture, visiting Hank Williams' House, Billy The Kid's Grave, The Golden Gate Bridge... would any of this rub-off onto their next release? You'd have to say it has. With notebook in hand for the entire journey, David Tattersall wrote the whole while, arriving home to find around twenty songs' worth of lyrics to be converted into 'City Forgiveness'. Most bands will write twenty, thirty, or even more tracks and then whittle them down to ten or a dozen of the best for an album, with maybe a few of the other tunes appearing as B-sides or being reworked for later releases when they feel more fitting or are completed more satisfactory. How many music fans have had the discussion about how most double albums would have made stunning single albums if some of the lesser material was trimmed off? It's a common debate, although try telling a hardcore Beatles fan that 'The Beatles ('The White Album' if you prefer) would have made a more rewarding single LP and you'll be treated as though you've committed some form of blasphemy. There are good double albums, but there are more that would have been better as single efforts. For either you need good songs, you need consistency, and you need at least a little variety. For doubles that variety is perhaps even more crucial, and that consistency is even more necessary. Can The Wave Pictures pull it off with 'City Forgiveness'?

The answer is perhaps not quite that straightforward. Firstly, the lyrics here are exemplary, but with twenty songs it's too much to quote favourite lines, as each song has them. If you ignore the English accent, then the sound of much of this album is rooted in American alt-rock. From the opening track, 'All My Friends', it sounds as though they've hired Neil Young to cover the lead guitar; and he's not a man whose style is easily imitated which makes this seem all the more heroic. Had one of the big US alternative bands released this then Uncut wouldn't be able to stop singing its praises. At over 5 minutes long it has the room to incorporate such indulgences (although it never sounds indulgent). In fact, a run down the track lengths reveals half the album to cross that time limit. The necessary variety jumps in right away, with 'Before This Day' having a much more exotic vibe with twangy guitar; it's part early surf, part lounge music and part 'Graceland', but it somehow manages to fit and sounds wonderful. The same trick is applied to 'Red Cloud Road (Part 2)' and 'Whisky Bay'. On 'Chestnut' ("your mouth glistened like a kitchen, your Adam's apple rattled like a kettle") they dip into alt-country that may also appeal to fans of Waits, Cave, Tindersticks and so on. Epic 'The Yellow Roses' and 'A Crack In The Plans' will have a similar appeal, minus the 60-a-day vocals.

It's an unusual listen is 'City Forgiveness'. The aforementioned 'Chestnut' has more Neil Young Guitar, as does 'The Ropes'. Other tracks take a similar path but are, surprisingly, more like The Eagles in their stadium-slaying pomp ('Better To Have Loved' being the most obvious example). 'Missoula' manages to combine their new-found exoticism with more traditional country-rock. 'Lisbon', the lovely 'Atlanta' and, to a lesser extent, 'Tropic' follow suit'. The funky 'Woods' is something of an anomaly, not quite fitting any of the classifications mentioned, and even recalling Talking Heads with the lyrical quality and style, but it's not out of step with the album though. 'Shell' is a great alt-rock track with mariachi horns which crop up again on the Buffalo Springfield-go-insane squall of 'Narrow Lane'. The maudlin closing couplet of 'Golden Syrup' and 'Like Smoke' are an unexpected surprise, as they choose not to go out with a bang. The problem here is not lack of quality and not really a lack of diversity: it's simply too much for one sitting. It's difficult to criticise an album of quality, but maybe it would be easier to digest as two separate releases, a 'Part I' and 'Part II' perhaps, released a couple of months apart. By by the final third it becomes a bit of a blur and you feel like a change is needed; it almost detracts from just how good the songs are. The Wave Pictures have, in a way, fallen foul of the double album conundrum, but not in the usual way. That said, there's not a bad track to be found.

The Wave Pictures' website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Thu 24th - Dresden (GER) @ Ostpol
Fri 25th - Chemnitz (GER) @ Lokomov
Sat 26th - Vienna (AUS) @ Chelsea
Sun 27th - Rosenheim (GER) @ Hole Club - presented by Bebop Schallplatten
Mon 28th - Munich (GER) @ Strom
Tue 29th - Nuremburg (GER) @ K4
Wed 30th - Zurich (GER) @ Helsinki
Thu 31st - London (UK) @ Servant Jazz Quaters "Moshi Moshi 15th Birthday Party"
Fri 1st - Bern (SWI) @ Cafe Kairo
Sat 2nd - Freiburg (GER) @ White Rabbit
Sun 3rd - Bärenbach (GER) @ Shortys'
Mon 4th - Colmar (FRA) @ Libellule Cafe
Tue 5th - Esslingen (GER) @ Komma
Wed 6th - Offenbach (GER) @ Hafen 2
Thu 7th - Wetzlar (GER) @ Franzis
Fri 8th - Cologne (GER) @ Die hängenden Gärten von Ehrenfeld (Early show, 19.00hrs)
Sat 9th - Brussels (BEL) @ Le Chaff
Wed 13th - London (UK) @ Camden Jazz Cafe
Wed 20th - Lille (FRA) @ La Peniche
Thu 21st - Evreux (FRA) @ l'Abordage
Fri 22nd - Nantes (FRA) @ Stereolux
Sat 23rd - Bordeaux (FRA) @ I Boat
Tue 26th - Salamanca (SPA) @ Potemkin
Wed 27th - Madrid (SPA) @ Siroco
Thu 28th - Sevilla (SPA) @ Malander 2.0
Fri 29th - Málaga (SPA) @ París 15
Sat 30th - Granada (SPA) @ Planta Baja
Sun 1st - Valencia (SPA) @ Wah Wah
Mon 2nd - Tarragona (SPA) @ El Cau
Tue 3rd - Barcelona (SPA) @ Sidecar
Wed 4th - Zaragoza (SPA) @ La Lata de Bombillas
Thu 5th - Vitoria (SPA) @ Jimmy Jazz
Fri 6th - La Coruna (SPA) @ La Club
Sat 7th - Valladolid (SPA) @ Porta Caeli
Mon 9th - Dijon (FRA) @ Flannery's
Tue 10th - Paris (FRA) @ Wintercamp Festival

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