Following early commercial disappointment, Dan Popplewell and his band have gained a musical maturity that sees them continue to move into wider creative expanse. Emerging in 1998 billed as Liverpool’s answer to the wry cockney posturing of Blur, their last release Running Girl was a significant departure from the modest success of their reach-for-the-stars debut that hit on an expression of profound emotion and musical innovation that should have seen them at least recognised as alternatives to the hedonistic guitar sculptors currently dominating their hometown scene. ‘Bluebell Morning’ jumps out of the speakers with a similar sonic purity, of which the freshness is palpable.
The simple verse/chorus execution of the title track condenses a wealth of pure emotion accentuated intricately by the layered vocals of Sophia Churney that in the following songs is built out into a more structured form. ‘Angel of Bradford’ is a wonderfully wrought rolling ode to a mysterious grace, retaining a tear-jerking sensitivity that sees it connect with an air of effortless beauty. ‘Souls of the Northern Lights’ is a wonderful elegy in a similar style that is resplendent of the sheer tenderness which currently elevates a majority of the band’s output to high art. The intricate ‘Miss You Miss’ is like a brief and pefectly formed vortex in a scenic pond, trickling out like a lifetime of beauty before flittering back into formlessness. It is such short spurts of between songs trickery that have often held a growing feeling of something to be elaborated on with Ooberman, and you feel this elaboration is only just beginning.
The coup de grace on ‘Bluebell Morning’ is a furious spurt resounding of Popplewell’s burgeoning fascination with all things Eastern and most strikingly Khachaturian. Poeticising a lifetime of rebellion under the exotic strains of an atmospheric violin lead, ‘SnakeDance’ comes together in all the right places to form another furious and brilliant oddity for which such bands should be cherished. As well as musically Khachaturian, it is pertinent that Hermann Hesse should be mentioned as a huge influence in the new “direction”, and the current achievement for Popplewell as an artist is in capturing more and more in musical form the sense of beauty palpable in his literature of lyrical soulfulness. A mile away from the world of aspiring for Top of the Pops, Ooberman are making giant strides towards a rare personal fulfilment.
9Neil Jones's Score