Richard Hawley’s music, ‘til now, seems always to have borne the stamp of an alternative
crooner; an indie Nat King Cole, even. Listening to his songs has been
like being wrapped up in a warm blanket
while a storm rages outside the window; he’s possessed of a richness of voice and a surfeit of songwriting ability,
talents he’s hitherto combined to produce music with a classic, old world feel ripe for Hovis bread adverts and a forgotten Northern England.
So it comes as something of a surprise to drop the needle on his
seventh record and be greeted with
‘She Brings The Sunlight’, a sprawling, seven-and-a-half-minute rock
epic, part driving drone-rock,
part Soulsavers-esque soaring majesty, awash with fiery solos and pervaded
with a vaguely hypnotic heaviness. Hawley
Hawley’s intelligent lyricism is here too – the title track itself has the feel of
a cowboy song, but tells a tale of gritty city misery.
But as the album wears on, the shock fades, the excitement dissipates, and the crooner returns for three or four Hawley
over-long, slightly ponderous songs; songs where smothering self-indulgence seems to get the better of the man.
Which is a shame, because for the first half of this record, he’d turned up the volume, plugged in the pedals, Hawley
and found himself a nicely jagged edge; Hawley had brought the storm inside. Sadly, he soon opened the door and let it out again.Hawley
Albarn himself refers to this music as “strange pastoral folk”, which is at least accurate,Hawley
English hills and dales materialised for the rise and fall of Dee, as the album begins and eventually ends
with crystalline field recordings of birds nattering. Dee died in poverty, by the way, having mucked about with séances and wife-swapping.
Like the continual references to religion (Dee, like all Elizabethan’s, was never far from matters of God), it’s all here, I’m sure.Hawley
Although to really be aware of that you’ll need to not constantly be questioning what on earth to make of Hawley
Albarn’s latest anti-popular record. On one hand, his defiance to create anything other than what he wants at this stage in hisHawley
career is as valiant as it is daft; on the other, sparse and splintered, you can’t be sure that ‘Dr Dee’ makes for good opera either.Hawley
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