The Lovely Basement: the Lovely Basement (Breaking Down Recordings)
Beautiful second album from West Country and indie band following the wonderful Just Because You Can. English Americana for Sunday afternoons never sounded so mellow and cool says Ged Babey.
In the same way as any decent band doesn’t like to repeat itself, album after album, I don’t like to either when I review a band for the second time.
‘Loaded-era Velvets Go Bossa-Nova & Lap-steel Country to make exceptional Sunday afternoon music: Laidback, guitar-based, warm and mellow – with clever lyrics and barbed sentiments, miscellaneous nonsense, a bit of politics and home-spun wisdom. A fantastic, slow-burning, modestly brilliant album. Smart, unassuming and cool.
Is a condensed version of what I said last time – and this, it could be said, is more of the same… but I think I can detect more purposefulness. The English reserve of the band has an American(a) confidence. The twangy melodies are brighter and the walking-pace rhythms more deliberate. This is proper album rather than a collection of songs and recordings so-far.
It’s still a laid-back and chilled-out Sunday afternoon sound. ‘For Fans Of – Cowboy Junkies and Suzanne Vega -if they’d relocated to the West Country’ lesser outlets might say.
There are still some musical surprises within the overall chill-out vibe of this eponymous album: The gorgeous Something Is Happening, takes four minutes before a sustained power-chord shatters the tranquil groove and Katie Scaife unleashes a full-on Axl-Rose type falsetto “I dunno..oooh!” whilst a cheeky bit of guitar string-plucking dissonance disrupts the Astrud Gilberto rhythm.
Muso guitar players will like the fact that there is a song called Black Epiphone, which I imagine is played on one.
You Drift By has some great tremolo twang action and ba-baa’s before a crunchy, distorted Crazy Horse type solo on the outro.
Among the Velvets and bossa-nova influences there is the harmonic hypnotic repetition of Stereolab and lyrically their Breaking Down label list ‘Death, redemption, favourite places, outrage and modern bewilderment’ as all “finding a voice in this shimmering collection of lovingly crafted songs”.
It is an album which is subtle and insidious and takes repeated listens to fully appreciate it. (Somehow I got more wrapped up in the music with this one whereas it was the lyrics on the debut.)
There is not much more I can add. The Lovely Basement (the album) is lovely. This is more than just a ‘progression from the debut album’ it’s the sound of a small-town band making an album with universal appeal.
Rather than joining the queue for a 6-Music BBC Introducing solitary play at 2 in the morning, I hope that everyone who hears this album tells five friends with similar taste and eventually all of the cool kids (who dig Velvets / C86 / Americana / Stereolab / Suzanne Vega / Galaxie 500…) will know their name.
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All words by Ged Babey