Review : Guillemots - Walk the River
BbcGuillemots’ slow-burning debut, Through the Windowpane, embraced so many influences from rock, folk, pop and jazz that it was hard to properly position the band. Despite this magpie approach they were nominated for 2006’s Mercury Prize, and 2008’s Red reached the UK top 10. The band paused while singer Fyfe Dangerfield released a solo album, Fly Yellow Moon, in 2010. For a man pursuing the quirky, its acoustic love songs were surprisingly conventional, though no weaker for it. And now, with recent discs from contemporaries Mystery Jets and Noah and the Whale aiming at the big time, a slick overhaul can be expected on Guillemots’ third set.
And it starts well: imagine if Brandon Flowers elected to record another solo effort in Worcestershire and you’re getting close to the vibe of the opener here. Guillemots sound tighter than on previous albums, demonstrating restraint in delving into their cluttered music box. The title-track is a lush, romantic epic, shooting down its greater themes of being "like a hunted animal" with the wry question, "did someone mention the weather?"
This new ambition continues with Vermillion, which builds into a hugely hummable crescendo of which The Waterboys would be proud. Dangerfield is in triumphant voice, delivering a performance to send "rock music is dead" doom-mongers scurrying for cover, even on the weakest songs. The debonair I Don’t Feel Amazing Now embraces kettledrums, insecurity and a tight tune, but then they shoot themselves in the foot.
Their jumble-sale jamming finds the four forgetting how to write a song, sometimes halfway through one. The fuzzy Slow Train just about stays on track, saved by its harmonies, but Sometimes I Remember Wrong is a three-minute song regrettably stretched over nine. Inside pleads "take me for a drive", but loses its feet in a swirl of atmospherics. It’s typical of this record’s failure to fully engage with an audience, despite several adventurous attempts....full text
GuardianGuillemots followed their brilliantly antic and Mercury-nominated debut, Through the Windowpane, with the altogether blander Red in 2008. Happily, Walk the River resuscitates much of the extravagance and euphoria of that first album. Their jangly pop can tilt into ad-friendly, empty effervescence (single "The Basket", for example, certainly doesn't do the album justice), but there are also plenty of more sophisticated tracks; a touch of heartache and bitterness seems to have done them good. Reprising the bitter "play on, play on" lyric of the LP's second track, "Vermillion", the standout is the desperately poignant "Dancing in the Devil's Shoes", where Fyfe Dangerfield's plangent vocals soar against restrained instrumentation....full text
MorethanthemusicHaving wooed the nation with his cover of Billy Joel’s She’s Always a Woman for most of last year, Fyfe Dangerfield has returned to his band Guillemots with a new sense of purpose. With the band having gone AWOL since 2008, they’ve been working hard to produce this twelve track album.
It’s fair to say everyone has their bad days, but the lyrics in I Don’t Feel Amazing Now are particularly poignant. “Take my heart it’ll make me feel amazing” sings Dangerfield as he establishes that he’s given everything he can to the audience of the song. The instrumental melody towards the end of the track makes you want to sing along and the repetition creates the perfect formula for a radio-friendly track. First single, The Basket, is already getting radio play and deservedly so. There’s an electronic feel to the song as vocals are layered beneath Dangerfield’s voice. As one of the more upbeat and, as it happens high-pitched, tracks from the album it’s definitely one that’s been chosen to appeal to the masses and I see no reason why it won’t.
Whilst not quite challenging Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell, the band’s Sometimes I Remember Wrong is a lengthy track. At just over nine minutes long it seems a bit too much like background music for me to enjoy as one well-formed song. Yesterday Is Dead is another long track, but the repetition of the chorus works in its favour to maintain the structure in a song that builds momentum as it progresses – up until the last awkward minute of instrumental anyway. It’s in the shorter and more heartfelt Dancing in the Devil’s Shoes that I rediscover Dangerfield’s vocals that I first fell for in the John Lewis adverts. With guitar and drums adding character to the song his vocals hold their own and the chorus still feels raw.
Dangerfield’s vocals need little support but by returning to work with his band mates around him he’s created a sound record. Sure, there are songs that I feel need a bit more polishing but overall it’s definitely shown me that there’s a lot more to Dangerfield than the sickeningly happy aging woman in a red dress....full text
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