If it wan’t enough that Tim Burgess fronts one of the most beloved, successful and long lasting indie bands The Charlatans, or that he has singularly redefined music in the COVID-19 age of isolation through his now legendary twitter parties, Burgess has now released an absolutely stunning solo album. And let’s get one thing straight, ‘I Love The New Sky’ is not Burgess’s main band by any other name, as is often the case when an artist goes solo.
This is an album that is uniquely Burgess: bright, bubbly, optimistic and slightly and very refreshingly eccentric. There is a tone that brings to mind classic albums of the past – think The Kinks’s Village Green Preservation Society, Ian Dury’s ‘New Boots and Panties’ or anything involving Jarvis Cocker – something indefinably, quintessentially English.
Of the album, Burgess says it was written:
…in Norfolk, in the middle of the countryside, with the nearest shop eight miles away. There are no distractions, and I guess that way things happen. I wrote everything on acoustic guitar, and the chords were really considered. The guitar lines would lead the melody, and the melody would inform the lyrics – just dreaming away with music.
Opening track and single from the album, ‘Empathy for Devil’, echoes a ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ rhythm with Rolling Stones-ish whoo hoos: this is a bright sparkling romp of a song with Burgess’s optimism and sparkle skipping over background harmonies, bucolic violins and rumbling piano. It’s is a hyperactive blast, and the accompanying video reflects a respect for the outsider, those that are different from the normal people, those artists who entertain and create but suffer the opprobrium of the staid and judgemental:
‘Sweetheart Mercury’ is a gorgeous pop-infused jaunt with infectious melodies: an unabashed declaration of love which echoes a deep seated romanticism at the core of Burgess’s song writing.
Burgess dives into a dense pond of psychedelia in ‘Comme D’Habitude’ – with its conventional beginning reflecting on personal relations before the swirling strings, saxophones and background voices slowly emerge and ascend. It’s trippy and hypnotic.
‘The Mall’ is an elegant, poised and poetic piece of psychedelia filled with Burgess’s brand of humour – matched by the accompanying video:
Indeed, there is self-deprecatory sense of humour throughout the album – ‘It Only Took a Year’ referencing the gestation period for the album with elegant pastoral harpsichord background and tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Burgess’s inherent optimism permeates every track in tone and lyrical theme. He says:
‘I Got This’ has the line “the future is friendly’. Everyone’s been going through a lot of tough times. And the future is uncertain. But you have to have that optimistic outlook – like, waking up in the morning and feeling that it’s gonna be a good day.
Burgess reaches pop heights in this track: a thundering, rolling, rambling song that has an infective bounce and heart-wrenching choruses filled with brightness.
Burgess is not all bright-eyed innocence and joy: ‘Undertow’ is a reflective ode to surviving the deprivations of life that is filtered through background samples and melancholy and dissolving in to a haunting cri de cœur.
The album ends with ‘Laurie’, a bright and wistful melodic end to a lovely album. This is utterly euphoric with its call and response chorus and optimism for the future – this is the new sky:
This album is truly a panacea for the times – inherently optimistic, bright, full of humour and joy and as infective as any pandemic but far more resilient and empowering.
The album is out now through Bella Union Records and available though all the usual download/streaming sites or directly from the artist below (recommended):
Feature Photograph: Cat Stevens