With a band name of such an ilk, at the very least you have to expect a certain bookishness from My Latest Novel. However, this library-hugging is not akin to that of a quiet bespectacled teenager, curled up alone in their room reading Dostoevsky and mourning the loneliness of the world. Rather, this is the music of the eloquent novelist, the critically revered but eccentric type. The one that the media never quite manage to catch, the one who’s myths are whispered in the circles of intelligentsia, who even themselves haven’t managed to catch more than a passing glimpse at the man.
So what? You say – most bands are storytellers of some kind or another. You have to understand: there’s a difference between telling a story (in the way that Jarvis Cocker could do admirably) and creating a lengthy tome, laced with mysteries, intrigues, plots and sub-plots. If the imminent debut album is going to be the metaphorical weighty text, then “The Reputation of Ross Francis” is some kind of prologue to it. A song conducted from the gates of heaven, the protagonist pleading for entrance: “Please sir / If you let me in I’ll prove, sir / I’ll fight by tooth and nail by hook by crook / To dispel all these myths and fabrications”. Such grandiose lyrics, which in the correct traditions of the perfect prologue, lay a trail of questions unanswered. Whoever this Ross Francis is, he’s certainly no insignificant character, he’s been called a saviour, “and it’s justified, it’s true”.
The music is equally grandiose, albeit within a small scale. Hushed verses sung in a duo of male and female Scottish tones, insistent chanting, marching choruses. 'Gunpowder, Treason and Plot', the b-side, is a song of three chapters, between them showcasing Mogwai influenced slow-core, devilish howling, spoken work-songs and serene Explosions in the Sky-like passages. The whole thing seems full of the same affirmative euphoria of label mates The Dears, but skilfully balanced against the melancholy that the Scots (Arab Strap for one) seem to manage so well.
This is a cracking single, but prologues can’t work entirely on their own – hopefully the album can go on to reveal the secrets of this iconic Ross Francis in as eloquent a way as this introduction hints at.
7Rachel Cawley's Score