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A Season In Hull by The Wave Pictures
Good news: Another (15th?) new Wave Pictures album and another bountiful year when they plan to release not one, but two new albums (Bread and Honey will be released in the Autumn on Moshi Moshi!). Bad news: It’s a 12” vinyl lp only release limited to 1200 copies on their own label, meaning not everyone of you *Ahem* thousands reading this review will actually get to hear it… at all… ever… So back to the good news I think – the important thing is it’s good, as you’ve come to expect from arguably the UK’s best band of these testing musical times (and that’s not to say the Wave Pictures wouldn’t stack up in any other era, cos they certainly and undoubtedly would, it’s just when you watch too many Friday night BBC 4 documentaries in a row, you start to lament the lack of musical superheroes in our midst right now). The Wave Pictures are the one-eyed man who’s king in our current climate, and it’s not just because they put the hours in (because they seriously do), it’s because of their magisterial ability to keep it all going, right up at the very summit of the summit. They’ve recorded live on previous outings, but in a move which I can only assume was entirely inspired by this 1914 picture of Elgar recording his orchestra into a cone, they decided this time to record the whole thing acoustically, into one microphone, on one day (singer David Tattersall’s birthday). That’s not strictly true though, Tattersall recently revealed the inspiration was in fact drawn from a number of conversations with good friend and fellow sound recording enthusiast Darren Hayman, who suggested heading backward to the early days of recorded sound, where the mix (and the levels therein) were determined by proximity of each player to the single microphone, and where personnel were shifted around between takes to achieve the desired mix, creating a “wilder, realer sound”. It’s difficult to tell if it’s the style of recording, or the song-writing itself that’s most responsible, but it all comes together in a huge sensory mix of old Country-style Blues, Folkey-roots and all-round Americana, at times sombre (when the Blues influences win through) and at others emboldened by that joyful naivety the band do so well. Like all Wave Pictures albums, it’s festooned with wild lyrical vivacity and vividness, imbued with an idiomatically English idea of the idyllic and bucolic (which works nicely in contrast to the musical language predominantly coming from pre-Rock n’ Roll America), and full of nostalgia, be it musically, lyrically or acoustically.
"The Coaster in Santa Cruz" – Gorgeous folk-blues finger-picked playing with brilliantly evocative and typically detail-loaded lines like “Black and white picture of a young Greek couple in your locket, dancing in your locket, ticket stub from the coaster in Santa Cruz, in the wallet in your pocket”
"Tropical Fish" – the first time to this reviewers mind that someone has built a chorus around repeating the previous lines’ lyrics backwards: “somewhere in the distance children are singing, singing are children distance the in somewhere” proceeding a unison repeat of “I want to go home”, ramping up the nostalgic touches over a whimsical lolloping country theme with some wonderful harmonica too.
"A Letter From Hull (Dom’s Song)" – Sang by the band’s mate Dom (who works with drummer Johnny “Huddersfield” Helm), displays that great Wave Pictures knack for marrying technical musicality, simple singalong hooks, and what seems like unadulterated lyrical naivety – arguably the album’s standout track