Don’t worry. It’s not a record that does what it says on the tin. There is bass of course. And some of it might just be slapped on occasion. But Andy Falkous’ fourth batch of christian fitness, erm, workouts is as intriguing and thoroguhly worthwhile as its predecessors.
In some ways this is the upside of the slow death of the record industry. (The downside being for the artists themselves, the reliance on forgiving employers or indifferent zero hours work to fill in the income gaps – hence why its important to hook yourself into those you like). Instead of having output rationed to fit with schedules, if you’re one of the country’s finest songwriters in the midst of a creative purple patch (which of course Falkous is), you can get your work out as soon as it’s ready. And it frees you up to have a different sort of relationship with listener. Keeping thing coming takes away the imperative to win back trust every couple of years with a familiar sounding ‘single’ and allows things to develop more organically without losing people en route.
While there’s not necessarily major departures in the post-US hardcore sound on this album, it does continue a move away from off-kilter melody to a more constructed, rhythmic, approach. Not that melody is abandoned – but the leavening of the tracks is increasingly achieved by Falkous’ variety of precise, sometimes theatrical, and often rather funny, vocal performances. (When putting the songs together, he referenced trying to achieve “the right level of silly” – which is an overlooked and under-valued quality). It gives each of the tracks a self-contained feel – as much like a collection of short stories as an album. Not that there’s much explicit narrative in the lyrics. They remain a trademark construction of abstract soundbites and quotable couplets which, nevertheless, when filtered through through the performances, somehow contrive to build as vivid a portrait of the confused British mindset as any other more direct artists.
So while there’s probably an added value to hearing the album as part of the ongoing stream of Andy Falkous’ work with both Future of the Left and christian fitness, there’s no need to fear dipping a toe in here and letting yourself be swept along.