Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bright Lights, Lovers' Quarrel

First, a recap: The Lost Music Club is a record label (founded earlier this year) that exclusively deals in "unreleased gems of the analogue age". The music industry is a fickle beast, you see, and one can only imagine the number of albums that never saw the light of day because somebody in charge just so happened to chang their mind. It's almost painful to think of all the artists who poured everything into crafting the perfect musical experience, only to watch that particular kettle come abruptly off the boil, its bubbling contents poured philistinely down the kitchen sink of pop music history.

Fortunately, we've got people like Jack and Liam to unearth these long-buried musical treasure troves (yes I know I'm mixing my metaphors shut up) and open them up for everyone to enjoy. The first such trove was Speedy's News from Nowhere, a poptastically English record that was put together during the latter days of the Britpop explosion and then promptly forgotten about for a decade and a half.

Now, I wrote a blog post about News from Nowhere when it was released back in April, but I must admit that it was kind of a tricky one for me. I was still in infants' school when Speedy were big the first time around, and as much I love the music that was released in 1997 (OK Computer, Attack of the Grey Lantern, et cetera), I don't have many memories of the year itself.

And so it was that my knickers were left relatively untwisted by the News from Nowhere announcement. A lot of people were really excited to *finally* hear the legendary, long-lost debut album from this fondly-remembered Sheffield indie outfit, but I'd never heard of Speedy before, and so all I could do was treat it as another new release (albeit a rather good one - my lack of prior knowledge should by no means be taken as a lack of enthusiasm for songs like Boy Wonder and I Like You So Much).

Now we find ourselves in late October, and The Lost Music Club have just released their second forgotten gem: Lovers' Quarrel by The Cheek.

This one is a lot more my era - it was initially slated for release in 2010, which is when I started my second year of university. I don't think I'm unduly blowing my own trumpet when I say that nineteen-year-old me was one helluva music fan; I read The Fly every month, I got frustrated when I didn't have enough money for the latest releases, and - crucially - I actually had half an ear to the ground when it came to new talent. Sure, I never would have heard of Speedy were it not for The LMC, but The Cheek were around when I was in my music-listening prime.

Which makes it all the more annoying that they, like Speedy before them, completely eluded me until now. Even allowing for the fact that they apparently used to be called 'Cheeky Cheeky and The Nosebleeds', the name doesn't ring any bells in my mind whatsoever. In fact, I'm beginning to suspect that I'll never recognise any of The Lost Music Club's artists, at least until Liam and Jack start looking into the recent history of the Cardiff music scene.

Anyway, I'm being terribly unkind to The Cheek. This blog post is already 564 words long, and not one of those words has shown the least interest in describing what their album - an album, lest we forget, that is four years overdue - actually sounds like. Time I got down to business, wot?

Now, if you're picturing the kind of music that was made in 2010 and assuming that Lovers' Quarrel sounds anything like that, I'm afraid you're already pitching in the wrong ballpark (for reference, The Fly's #1 album of 2010 was Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, which should give you an idea of what a mediocre year that was). I was actually kind of surprised to learn that Lovers' Quarrel was recorded as recently as it was; if you'd asked me for a blind guess, I'd have stuck my pin in 2005, a solid half-decade before Cheeky Cheeky and The Nosebleeds started turning heads.

In particular, these songs remind me of a band called Duels, and you can draw a big black line under the preceding nine (!) paragraphs because this is where today's blog post actually begins. Duels released their first album, The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learned, in 2006, and that album sounded something like this:

If you were to plot every album ever released on some kind of colossal family tree, I suspect that Lovers' Quarrel and The Bright Lights... would at least be cousins, if not full-blown siblings. Both are glam-influenced with just the right amount of that hazy Britpop hangover that's been with us since everyone decided against reason that Definitely Maybe was a really good album. Both have a small smattering of quiet, reflective stuff to offset the noisier, rowdier bits. And both fill me with a strange longing for all the local venues that have closed down since the mid-noughties.

Above: Do Nothing, the opening track from Lovers' Quarrel

Weirdly, though, the latter part of Lovers' Quarrel leaves behind this post-millennial, Franz Ferdinand indie sound and strays into slightly more left-field - perhaps even psychedelic - territory. What Goes On, for example, starts out as one of those quiet, reflective songs that I mentioned before, but it eventually transmogrifies into this big fuzzy stomper that's rather at odds with the slick, shiny grooves that make up the first half of this album. Electric Undertone is another one; it arrives on the album's brashest beat and proceeds to pound away at the ears that the album was doing its sly, slinky best to charm only a few songs earlier.

All of that said, I think that Whole World - the ninth track of ten - is the best ambassador for the album as a whole. It mixes a frantically fabulous guitar hook with a healthy layer of fuzz, balancing both sides of The Cheek's sound and giving us a truly killer quick-fire chorus to boot.

"I'm just a boy and you're the whole world"

The effect is slightly dulled in the cold light of 2014, but taken in its original context, Whole World feels like an electrifying, last-chance-saloon goodbye to the noughties and the music that defined them. It's the sound of the credits rolling on a decade, and if you miss spending your New Year's Eves wearing glasses like these...

...then I strongly recommend that you investigate this album. And the Duels album too, because that's a fantastic listen. 

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