The Magnetic North – Prospect Of Skelmersdale (Full Time Hobby)
LP / CD / DL
8.5 / 10
Post-rock shoegazers release that difficult second album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
To be frank, an album based around the subject of Skelmersdale may not seem the most exciting proposition. One of the UKs ‘new towns’ built in 1961 and still professing to have no traffic lights within its boundaries, it was created as an overspill for North Merseyside as part of the post-war population distribution. It failed and in the early 80s it became the residency of the Transcendental Meditation movement in the Britain.
The Magnetic North trio made up of Simon Tong (Blur, The Verve, Gorillaz) together with Orcadian musician Gawain Erland Cooper and orchestral arranger Hannah Peel (John Foxx And The Maths), have assembled something of a beauty with Prospect Of Skelmersdale. It’s slightly folky, with tinges of shoegaze and is altogether a lovely little beast.
The album weaves its way through twelve tracks which take in superb songwriting and experimentalism sometimes with a hint of sophisti-pop one hit wonders The Dream Academy famed for their 1985 hit, the aptly named Life In A Northern Town. Although unlikely that the northern town in question was Skem, the feel of both the hit and the set by The Magnetic North does hold some similarities.
It’s a short album, with quality prevailing over quantity and the sheer deliciousness of its contents make it essential listening. Remains Of Elmer takes the sound one step further as it introduces a racing orchestral backing against an infectious strap-line which is difficult to shake off. Indeed, the whole of the album is a collection of tracks which will leave at least a short term indelible mark in your aural cavities.
Cergy Pontoise sees Peel take over vocal duties and her angelic tones are a perfect complement to the wind instruments which take residence within the track, and Exit provides maybe a yearning to leave the town where brighter horizons lie.
With clever insertions of newsreel soundbytes the album retains an interest that many have similarly attempted and may have lost, and Pennylands (one of several album highlights) yet again delights with its sheer simplicity and beauty.
The Magnetic North may have done the Lancashire town some favours with this album. Whilst lyrically it may not always be entirely complimentary, musically and emotionally it is a cut above and will serve the trio well if there is any justice.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. You can also follow him on Twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news.