Laish: Obituaries – album review
Laish – Obituaries – Folkwit
Laish’s new album is wry, funny, sad and moving and very very pretty. idp loved every tiny little bit.
I don’t know if it’s the weather or the economy or that nasty Kirsty woman knocking Tyrone about but there’s a trend for glum music at the moment. Every week a new bedroom project arrives bearing the bleak portents of doom like amulets of pride upon its recently healed wrists and filled with droning synths and songs whose poetry is all about the agony of breaking up, or of being alone, or of your dog dying or having acne, without ever mentioning the joys of love, good company, taxidermy and an occasionally clear complexion.
Laish are a five piece from Brighton comprising songwriter Danny Green on vocals, Emma Gatrill and Martha Rose on violin, clarinet and accordion, Patrick Lawrence on bass and Dan Harding at the drums. At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that their new album was yet another one to go on the pile marked bleak and depressing, but you’d be very wrong.
It’s called Obituaries and it opens with the title track, full of sombre woodwind and a vocal which seems to take forever to arrive and which, when it finally does turn up, sounds as though it was probably delayed because it had to clamber off its sick bed to get to the microphone. Hollow and distant, like someone relaying instructions for their own funeral down one of those cardboard tubes from inside a roll of carpet. ‘Cut out the obituaries’ the voice commands, ‘Each and every day. The morning brings a new death to celebrate in poetry. A life in a paragraph.’ Cheers.
Step away from the valium. It’s going to be a tough thirty minutes. It would be nice of course if this were to turn out to be an album laced with irony and shot through with mordant black humour, but we all know that albums like that don’t come along that often, and since we’ve had John Grant’s superlative Pale Green Ghosts recently what are the chances of two coming along at once? Pretty slim but not impossible? Spot on sir.
Obituaries is one of those albums that manages to make you smile a lot, laugh out loud occasionally, moves you with moments of real sadness or confession and does it all with the aid of some really lovely tunes, swirling violins, great vocals. I nearly danced. Witty, humane and self deprecating this is one you’ll share with your friends just so you can see their faces when the mood of the album changes up a gear.
Having set the listener up with the opener the punch line is delivered within a few seconds of the next track, Warm The Wind. Set firmly in the popular music tradition of songs sung by men who aren’t getting any to their girlfriends who aren’t giving much it opens slowly but then the band kick in as Green laments the unsatisfactory nature of his relationship. ‘I tried to get to bed on time, to mount you and to call you fine, you rolled your eyes to that song of mine, I went to sleep with dreams of snow.’ This is the common lament of men throughout history, expressed in such classics as apostrophe record holder Chas’n’Daves’s Ain’t No Pleasin’ You, The Stones’ Satisfaction, Billy Joel’s Only The Good Die Young and Andrew Marvell’s 17th century classic To His Coy Mistress. What Laish offer here is a modern but equally erudite version of the problem. ‘I spoke to you in children’s voice, I read to you from Sophie’s Choice, I even read you fuckin Joyce’, sings Green. What more does the woman want? I’d give it up mate.
Highlights elsewhere on the album include Carry Me which features, almost uniquely, a converation between between a love struck penguin in need of a lift and a horse with a nice mane and a regrettable tattoo and which has a dry wit reminiscent of Bill Callahan, an up tempo little rocker about the importance of free will in Choice. Each song is full of humanity wit and playful good humour which is not to suggest that this is by any means a comedy record – on Closer a man guilty of relationship offences hopes that it doesn’t end up with his wronged girlfriend stabbing him, Discipline considers how words lose their meaning if you say them often enough and on Visions a young man looks forward to a time when he will be old and facing death and thinking back on his pointless life, but somehow even these topics are leavened with touches of irreverent humour which means that they never become the exercises in self pity – just sweet, wry little meditations on how life can be funny and sad at the same time.