Dark. Isn’t it?
Like a heavy, grey, wet blanket, winter has enveloped everything on this storm-lashed, sodden sod of earth of a country. Autumn doesn’t even get a look in anymore, no time for that, just bring on the rainclouds.
Yeah, bring ‘em on, we think.
It’s dark, we think. It’s cold and wet, we think. Yeah, we think, that’s good.
Nothing’s no fun no more. Fun has lost all dignity now, now that fun has been appropriated by the shouty, the shrill, the brash it has become a joyless, empty thing, so...
So. Where do we go, who do we turn to?
Baptiste - some be-suited types - Baptiste - frayed at the edges and holes in their shoes - Baptiste - stifling manly sobs - Baptiste... have made this album; an album for these times, for times of grey days and bright-light nights.
‘Nothing Shines Like A Dying Heart’ is, as you might expect from that a tad self-conscious title, a pudding over-egged with notions of the eternal romantic outsider, foppishly wailing and railing against what-have-you from the roof of a multi-story car-park in the November drizzle. Yes, maybe, but there’s a sense of grace here too, and nobility.
The slower tracks here have a Tindersticks ruminative quality to them: ‘Confessions Of A Clumsy Man’, ‘Some Would Call It Drowning’ and ‘Tired Bodies’ are of a life slowed, a diet of coffee and cigarettes, a desperate longing; all lamplight illumination and the cold water tap dripping at midnight. Flawed, unthawed. At home and so alone...
But the sedate, hands-in-pockets pace is interrupted by sudden fiery-sky flashes. ‘Living Horizontally’ begins an airless languor, a murmur that then begins to build: there’s a crush, then a push, a rush and it all explodes into a coruscating blast of ‘Darklands’ or ‘Honey’s Dead’ era Jesus & Mary Chain where guitars cast fire in controlled bursts of emotional intensity.
This noise-burst assault comes into it’s own on the wonderful, and quite reasonably titled ‘Give A Man Four Walls Long Enough And It Is Possible For Him To Own The World’, a semi-instrumental which is immediately followed by the album highlight ‘The Half-Light’. Before you can say “sonic cathedrals of sound!” these two tracks whip up highly textural layers of effects-pedal punishing dreampop that calls to mind My Bloody Valentine‘s ‘Isn’t Anything’ and Spacemen 3, the difference being, vocalist Wayne Gooderman’s fey, plaintive cry sounds like Pete Shelley. The juxtaposition of this then makes for intriguing listening. Okay, so he flicks the Suede lyric generator switch from time to time (“living like a ghost beneath electric lights”) but he gets away with it through sheer strength of verve and nerve. The glass slipper fits.
They love the city. Baptiste form part of a lineage of bands that celebrate the urban and the urbane from the Velvet Underground to the Buzzcocks to Suede. And they hate the city. Baptiste sing of the cold, hard, unforgiving streets. There’s the dichotomy: in the city they feel chill of isolation while experiencing the comfort of anonymity. But where’s the fun in that?
But... but wait...
Opener ‘You Know Everything’ borrows pre-‘His N’ Hers’ Pulp’s droning fairground organ keyboard FX and Jarv’s worm-has-turned libido, “Reeling drunk around our room... I’ll have anyone I CAN” asserts Wayne, twirling and whirling in the vortex of mad sound.
Closer ‘Love In The City’ ends the album on a sloppy hearted indie-pop stormer, “I’ve missed the thrill/so what the fuck?/Break the pattern of my life... /You came along/you broke my cool... /I need to know/is it now and is it you?”. Of course it is, everything’s gonna be alright. All smiles again.
See? Who told you there’s no fun no more? Ha!
Gonna have some fun tonight.
8David Merryweather's Score