John Peel favourites The Crimea return after a long hiatus with their third LP Square Moon for which lead singer and guitarist Davy MacManus produces lyrics like the scripts of short films set to the most ridiculously elegant music writes RobMcNamara.
The clouds gradually disperse from the sky outside this reviewer’s window as opener Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight begins, gently whispering its sweet beauty and drawing in the stragglers from the mid-morning slump. Keyboards and phased vocals build a feeling of expectation that is met and duly satisfied several times over 22 tracks later.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of gentle heartfelt acoustic pop, the dominant mood here, the luscious arrangements and dripping melodies will have you seduced in seconds – no matter what your disposition. Drawing inspiration from the most polarised of sources, The Crimea can boast of making a noise all of their own that’s wrapped in the most gorgeous and unique of packages.
If I See My Reflection One More Time is a huge, burgeoning, celebratory sound borne out of an initially delicate vocal and lovely lyrical sentiment. You Never Smile For The Camera with its clipped guitar sound, gentle bobbing melody and sumptuous chord changes is as rocky as it gets, while How To Make You Laugh is more downbeat and subtle before bounding into a lively chorus.
Beehive Mind’s off tune charm is intriguing from the sampled film dialogue – a common theme – to the strained guitar notes married to a circling piano riff, it works to great effect. Black Belt in Breaking Hearts may lay claim to its place at the albums heart, the signature song – a moving masterpiece.
Shredder is stunning. It features swirling piano (a constant and welcome embellishment throughout), lyrics that conjure the most wonderful and weird images and perfect strings.
As with all good records, though, imperfection looms and there are some tracks that simply don’t work – this is a double album after all. Road To Damascus is a temporary blip while Lupara Bianca is a tired sea shanty that unfortunately leans too far in the direction of current media darlings and commercial monsters Mumford and Sons, although not nearly as mundane.
However, there is so much to enjoy on the record that you cannot but take a journey through it and temporarily stop to admire the beauty along with the way.
Square Moon is daring, clever and storied lyrically – not for a moment are you bothered by cliche. Musically it can be angry at times, but mostly emotional and reflective while always being brilliantly eclectic. It’s got shades of epic pop (Mid Air Collisions and We Stand Alone), folk (Last Plane to Saigon) and classical with the briefest touches of electronica (Petals Open When Reached By Sunlight and Lovers Of The Disappeared) This an album years in the making but worth every second it took to manifest.