record reviews july 2020

KIDSMOKE

A Vision in the Dark

kidsmoke

A young Welsh four-piece from Wrexham who’ve already notched up plays on E4’s Made In Chelsea and Netflix’s Black Mirror, their debut album is packed with bouncy, summery pop full of descending keyboard chords and guitar riffs and conjures thoughts of The Lightning Seeds. They lead from the front with Passenger which, along with the chugging psychedelic pop of Rising Sun were E4’s picks.

They do gentle jangle on Layla’s Love, bubble up on Colourfield and bring bounce to a lyrics about dealing with your demons in order to move forward on She Takes You Under. That derived from front man Lance’s experience of talk therapy while album closer The Bluest You (hints of the Manics here) is a fly on the wall observation of how one individual’s depression affects the rest of the household. Black Mirror choice Take Me To The River is another musically upbeat number, throbbing bass underpinning as it goes, but, if there’s a general criticism it would be that, save for the penultimate reflective strum of Little Easy, there’s not a lot of light and shade in the music itself. That said, a bright future seems to lie ahead. Mike Davies

ROBERT FRANCIS

The End Times Vol 1 (Membran)

Robert+Francis

Conceived on a road trip from Nashville to L.A., I’m not sure what Francis was listening to in the car but the album swirls with echoes of everything from Tom Petty to Radiohead by way of jazz, 60s psychedelia and Americana on songs that reflect on the turbulence of relationships, both with others and self.

A rippling keyboard figure and tinkling bells open Somewhere Trains, a falsetto-voiced swirl of melody about not actually moving on and ending things (“tonight, maybe once, we don’t have to move on/Somewhere trains never stop/We don’t have much left to talk about/Maybe you and I can make it up/On the way home”). On then to the guitar chugging anthemic Americana of Paradise with its Eagles hints and, echoing the previous tracks, the lyric’s relationship symbolism (“Last night I had a dream our house went up in flames/I had the car going in the drive, I was calling out your name/But you stood at the window and said come back inside…You whispered to me in my ear…after all what we've been through, I'll burn down with you too”).

Echoing sung against a simple stabbing piano note intro and backdropped by shimmering synth notes and jazzy congas, Boy Like That speaks of a lost friendship that may have not been the most positive (“He had a foul mouth, could have used a little filter”) but which tended to put life into perspective.

Again set to a metronomic drum beat and sung in falsetto tones that enhance its Radiohead colours, Coast with its squally guitar solo is about looking forward rather than back, the album proceeding through the break-up bitterness of the slow shuffling Copy Comic (“Take him for instance/He can’t hold a tune/I cast a long shadow/And wait for the moon”), the Petty-shaded chug Built To Last, the more Springsteen-influenced horn-streaked dramatics of the rock driving Down The Line and the five minute plus jazz club groove of Loose Conditions with its semi-talked vocals, double-bass and piano.

That’s preceded by the harmonica haunted, gathering swell of What It’s Like with its driving drum beat and hard earned wisdom (“What it’s like for you ain't what it’s like for me/ You done a bad thing for a good reason”) and how “You can run off to a small town/And spend some time alone/You can learn more bout yourself in one day/Than ten years at home”, coming to understand that while you can “beg for one last shot/But you know that her decisions/Are only hers to make/And you still can see the beauty/In your greatest heartbreak”.

It closes with the walking strum rhythm of House Cat, an acceptance of an ending (“I know you’re better off with him/I know you won’t see me again”) but still maintaining “It’s not all my fault, it never is”, the song title stemming from the surreal chorus line about being “Like a house cat on an airplane wing”. It’ll be interesting to hear where Vol 2 and possible new beginnings take him. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2020