Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The rolling, aural signature of the Bats' guitars and locked-in rhythm section has always sounded at its best when it drops the tempo and engages with a romantically woozy sound which -- when married to lyrics of optimism and gentleness -- just brings a smile.
This lovely album - which doesn't stray far from their template -- will have you smiling with recognition and warmth as it unveils exactly those qualities.
Throughout there are songs of letting go of fear, worry and those monsters within, of light come shining (even though the singer has been waiting for years within four old granite walls), time being the healer and "getting over you, it's tragic but that's the way it goes".
Lyrically some of these songs could just as easily be about the passing of parents and friends as about the loss of love, but everywhere there is a welcoming, supportive hand reaching out. Nothing here rolls around in melancholy, just acknowldges such a state exists and points to the sunshine.
On a musical level the Bats have really lifted their game from the earlier and slightly disappointing Guilty Office. The vocals here lock beautifully, there is a crispness to their sound and the subtle additions of viola and mandolin, as well as subtle economic guitar passages, elevate the uplifting effect even further.
Perhaps the presence of producer Dale Cotton (who also produced singer-guitarist Robert Scott's superb Ends Run Together album last year) accounts for that.
But it is also the strength of the songs too: that effortless amalgam of slightlydelic pop and folk (It's Not the Same, the beautiful On the Bank) occupy the same space as slightly urgent darker material (In the Subway, the poetic When the Day Comes towards the end) but neither end of the spectrum overwhelms the other.
The too-short instrumental Canopy has the most subtle touch of experimental Robert Fripp about it. Delightful.
Aside from a couple of songs which seem lesser lights in this company (Fingers of Dawn and the archetypal Space Junk, despite its satellite-reaching guitar passage, back-to-back pull down the middle) this is the Bats at the top of their late-career game once more.
Bats bassist Paul Kean answers the Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire here.
FOR OTHER 'BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011' ALBUMS GO HERE.