Cherbourg – despite taking their name from a French port town (city actually, now known as 'Cherbourg-Octeville', but I digress) – are very much contemporaries of fellow London quartet Mumford & Sons. Kevin Jones of this band runs folksy club night 'Communion' with Ben Lovett of that band; the latter recorded this EP at his home studio in Devon and the pair also toured extensively together last year. Not to labour the point but the similarities run deeper still: on their inaugural release, Cherbourg touch on the same universal themes and predilections as Mumford & Sons did on their wonderful second, offering up an immediately engaging – but more than that, promising – listen.
Chiefly then – love, loss, and a sense of careworn optimism prevail. From the rambunctious strings that open these 16 minutes to the repeated mantra of 'The Mill' upon which they close ("It’s just another bad dream / It’s just another nightmare / You forgot to close your eyes"), there’s a palpable sense that this young lot are unafraid to tackle these biggest of themes. And tackle them well they do too, with an occasional lack of lyrical tact ("You kissed my neck and you left the room / You probably had someone better to do") more than compensated for by the youthful zeal with which they play.
Amid a lo-fi and synthesizer-wielding army that’s currently exciting myriad music journalists no end (with due cause), it remains refreshing – or, at least, reassuring – that the likes of this lot, Broken Records and Mumford & Sons can continue to furrow a path governed by the imperatives of well-worn songcraft. However: in the anthemic stride all the acts seem to be gearing themselves up for (see 'Let You Down' here for instance, which veers dangerously close to Snow Patrol circa Final Straw waters) danger awaits. In order to emulate the achievements of their heroes and effectively assume a worth of their own (Elliott Smith, Arcade Fire, Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Beirut are cited as influences here), simply writing and performing good, solid songs might not be – scratch that, it absolutely won't be – enough.
Last Chapter Of Dreaming, though, is better than solid – with its airy harmonies and precise flourishes of fiddle and mandolin it’s rather lovely. From the keening swirl of 'Horses' through the charming and ultimately triumphant slow-build of 'The Mill', Cherbourg exude a potential that, fingers crossed, they have the capacity and imagination to build on come their debut album.
6James Skinner's Score