(Via Dolorosa/Bright Star BSR9)
This album was actually released at the end of last year so forgive me for being a bit tardy – I only bought it a couple of weeks ago.
The reason I’ve left it so long is that in that fortnight or so, the damn record’s been growing on me to an amazing degree. When I first had a skim through the tracks in Soundclash, I thought ‘bit country, quite nice.’
Since then, I’ve fallen in love with this strange little gem.
Apparently, The Last Post have already been on Peel and the Evening Session. You can find more info at the official site
And a nice background piece here which explains how the band is basically Alan Kelly and mates from various bands he ropes in.
The first track is ‘Until The Heart Give Way’ and it’s a great intro to this slow, contemplative album. It fades in with a guitar line that sounds a bit like the old music they used to have on Arena. You know, with the bottle floating on water. Umm, anyway…
Kelly’s voice comes in and it’s a controlled, sad (but not mournful) croon. Over slooow drums and massed harmonies, the song builds to a dreamy chorus introduced by a lovely female voice warbling ‘You could just…’ ‘Cry your eyes out’ is Kelly’s rejoinder. Guitars slide by like the sun through trees and I’m trying to sing along. But I’m too rubbish and sound like a dog howling. Some very gentle brass and organ introduces a twiddly middle guitar break which leads to Kelly’s coda : ‘I just wanted to take care of you.’ Gulp.
As a public health warning to the kind of readers I know ukma gets, please *do not* buy this album if you’ve just broken up with someone. You’ll end up going out of the window.
For example, the next rack is ‘You’re All That I’ve Got Left In This World.’ Over a slow guitar/organ arpeggio, Kelly lays out a (another? the same?) fall from grace. It’s around here that you realise – my God, these songs are all hymns. But hymns you actually want to sing! It’s difficult to sing along cos Kelly’s such a great singer and has unique phrasing but it’s more difficult not to – they’re so bloody catchy. Honestly, I’ve not wailed along to my stereo like this for a long time. It’s the most fun i’ve had since playing air-guitar along to the Sludgefeast album.
And that’s something I’d like to emphasise: although the whole theme of this album is love, loss and heartache, like the best country music, the end result is actually uplifting. You feel you’ve shared something, learned something about being human.
The next track is ‘Silence Seems To Say’ and it’s my personal favourite. It starts with a few drumbeats and then a smooth guitar line, coupled with echoed marimba. Then the vocals come in, ‘This is why every day is the same… everyday silence seems to say.’ He just grabs you. The song has an unsual, unfolding structure. It builds to the repeating last lyric, ‘I know I shouldn’t love you but I still do’ which Kelly sings *beautifully.* Yeah, he’s technically perfect but what I mean by beauty is that he’s unafraid to sing a simple melody. In doing this, he’s got a million times more soul than any amount of modern r’n’b hideous whooping. This bloke has a *wonderful* voice that I’d put in the same emotive bracket as Leonard Cohen, Fred Neil or Johnny Cash. The track ends with a plaintive country guitar twiddle before fading into a short instrumental, ‘The Serpentine Line.’
I’m trying hard to categorise this CD generically but it’s difficult. I played it to one mate and he said it reminded him of early psychedelia. My missus is convinced it’s a gospel album. I think it’s a country album. Perhaps it’s an Irish folk/country/gospel/psychedelic album? Oh, and I forgot, it’s got some brass band-type brass on it as well. ‘I Believe’ is a catechism of love that’s at once defiant and, well, pleading. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Again, it’s slow but not in the same way. How many flavours of slow can these guys do?
The next track, ‘…And Then You Came Along’, is only 1min 12 secs long but it’s a diamond song. It reminds me hugely of This Mortal Coil‘s cover of ‘Song To The Siren’, it has that kind of folky melody and simple emotion. Lovely. I’m encouraged that The Last Post have already got Radio 1 airplay with this stuff. Hopefully, this’ll give them the break to reach the huge audiences they deserve with songs like ‘It Shouldn’t Still Hurt (But It Does).’ That’s why I don’t want you to think this album is experimental or ‘difficult’ – it’s just great pop music that’s trying *new things* lyrically and sonically.
With ‘The Guiding Light’, I’m again reminded of This Mortal Coil or other prime 4AD stuff. I think I can safely say that if anyone reading this is a 4AD fan, you’re gonna love this album. ‘The Guiding Light’ is just backwards reverb and vocals, stark and moving.
And then The Last Post put on their party hats and give us a nice country waltz with ‘When I Think I Just Can’t Start Over’ and through the tambourine, guitar and harmonies, you can feel the clouds parting. And you’re reassured that this songwriter has more depth, more ability than most willfully-miserabilist schmindie songwriters. Which ‘The Light To Live By’ proves in it’s *almost* trad-country one minute 10. A lesser songwriter would have stretched this bugger out, milked the melody to death. Kelly knows he’s got loads more where that one came from.
The album’s last proper track is ‘You’ve Got A Hold On Me’ which starts with Wurly piano, tambourine and voice before a semi-military press-roll beat kicks in. It’s almost Beach Boys in it’s strangeness but from a completely different place melodically. And again, Kelly doesn’t hang about. He’s says what he has to say in 2.13 with no need to grandstand.
The last piece of music is the end of the first track, repeated as a gentle coda to the album. But it sounds like Kelly’s singing ‘take care!’ to us, the potentially broken-hearted.
Okay, now I know I can be overly enthusiastic but not this time. If you’ve ever, ever sung along to a sad song, whether it’s Merle Haggard or Mahalia Jackson, you’ll probably like this album. In fact, you’ll probably fall in love with it like I did, surprised when you find yourself singing bits of it as you’re walking round town. Although it came out last year, it’s gonna be one of my faves of this year and although it’s alost the anti-matter opposite of Sludgefeast, they do share a common passion, deftness and raw power.
Don’t buy it if you’re looking for fast rock’n’roll or banging beats.
love and kisses,