We (well, I..) here at Backseat Mafia have loved Bradford for a long time. So the excitement generated by the bands first new material in over three decades here at our offices (my kitchen) has generated a palpable sense of excitement.
Numbering original members Ian H. (vocals) and Ewan Butler (guitar) joined by the producer of their 1989 debut album Shouting Quietly (and their label boss) – super-producer Stephen Street, the band have recorded a new album which will drop early next year – Brighton Hours. Ahead of that the band have released a new track, Like Water.
The track held some personal significance for Ian, who says of it “I felt how once you pour water onto the ground it dissipates swiftly and in ‘random’ directions” he muses; “’There goes yer life’ I thinketh”, he muses, continuing “For me songs have to have intriguing titles – they are ‘worlds’ and I carried this title (‘Like Water’) around for a few weeks on my walks about the place, which always provide scenes quite often of quiet desperation. The people in the song are real people – I saw them on separate occasions in a local town centre – I just stuck them all in one single day or walk-through if you will. Like some badly realised modern Lowry painting.”
Anyone worried that Like Water might not match their previous work, rest easy. The descriptive wordplay is undimmed, and Ian’s voice still has that yearning soulfulness that enraptured those that heard it three decades ago. The melody rolls over you, the melancholy within pulling at your heartstrings.
Welcome back, Bradford.
Returning with their first original music in over three decades – BRADFORD – will release a brand new album in 2021: ‘Bright Hours’.
Featuring founding members Ian H. (vocals) and Ewan Butler (guitar), the reunion also sees the band welcome acclaimed producer Stephen Street (who produced their 1989 debut album ‘Shouting Quietly’) as an official full-time member.
Leading the charge with an incendiary new single, Bradford can exclusively reveal: ‘Like Water’ today; a track that dissolves years into days and resonates like they’ve never been away.
Thirty years ago a young Northern skinhead band named Bradford from Blackburn were handed the baton by Morrissey as ‘the’ band to blaze a trail in English indie music following the demise of the Smiths.
Producer Stephen Street (Blur/New Order/ Kaiser Chiefs), who had just come off the back of an extremely successful collaboration with Morrissey on his early solo recordings, immediately signed the band to his brand new Foundation label. With the backing of such key players, the scene was set for Bradford and iconic titles of the day soon joined rank to praise Bradford’s: “intelligent and distinctive, finely crafted pop songs.” (Sounds, May 1988). During three intense weeks of creative endeavour Stephen and the band recorded their debut album ‘Shouting Quietly‘ which was released in March 1990 to critical acclaim. International tours and shows with Joe Strummer, The Sugarcubes, and even Morrissey himself soon came beckoning in that sacred time that envelops a band in dizzying ascension.
Alas, simple twists of fate combined to thwart the band’s widespread acclaim becoming commercial success, not least being the rise of the massive all-covering avalanche in music that became known as ‘Madchester’. Bradford’s brand of sharp English pop was no longer the order of the day… Finding themselves without a label in 1991, the band were truly ‘adrift again’ and went their separate ways.
And whilst lightning never strikes twice, the band who announced themselves to the world with ‘Skin Storm’ (which Morrissey notably covered at the height of his fame) – would have their chance to light it up once more. In 2018, ‘Thirty Years Of Shouting Quietly’ [Turn55cd] saw Bradford’s seminal debut album lovingly remastered and re-released as a 30 song collection on Turntable Friend Records. Receiving warm reviews and a new cult reverence, the record was re-appraised as a ‘lost English classic’ and would set the cogs in motion for something much more…
Though Bradford’s two core members had never lost touch during ‘the wilderness years’, the ‘Thirty Years…’ project reaffirmed Ian H. and Ewan Butler’s dormant sense of belief in what they had created with Bradford. Reconvening to record ideas once again, they found the original magic was alive and well. Confident in a clutch of new songs that were identifiably Bradford by blueprint, the pair reached out to Stephen Street, not only with their plans for a new album, but to also offer him a position in the band… As Street recalls:
“When I brought the original Foundation Label to an end in the 90s, and Bradford disbanded, I often wondered what happened to the guys in the band, particularly Ian and Ewan who I regarded as the mainstays of the group. So, although a huge amount of time had passed, and it was a complete surprise to hear from them last year, it also felt completely ‘right’ to get involved and help bring the idea of a new Bradford album to full fruition.”
With a complete album’s worth of material arranged and ready in waiting, Stephen’s studio expertise and resounding confidence in the tracks would prove to be the catalyst that would bring ‘Bright Hours’ into focus. As Ian H. remembers:
”To see Stephen’s familiar frame leaning over the control desk in quiet concentration once more after three decades was for Ewan and I nothing short of amazing. Amazing too was to hear the results…. The songs I’d written seemed to become almost immediately wider, brighter, deeper, shinier as soon as Ewan and Stephen bent their ears and then began their alchemy with them. They’re like diamond dogs – they hear things I cannot hear in them.”
Featuring songs dating back as far as 30 years ago to those written in the modern day, it’s perhaps apposite that notions of time and themes of water flow concurrently amidst the bridges and structures of the ‘Bright Hours’ soundscapes.
“Water runs throughout this album and as now we are gentlemen of a certain age, the passing of time features several times too. The odd flash of anger, jubilation and two songs in particular are ‘cinematic’ I feel – very visual and take you on a journey through a place. There’s even a track that is positively disturbing – a true story to boot.”
Mellifluous and mysterious, new single ‘Like Water’ is a fitting first impression of what to expect from the wider record. Struck by the narrative of The Thin Red Line, in which a Lieutenant philosophises on death in combat, Ian H. found himself drawing parallels of its message within his own life and was physically moved to capture his feelings:
Inking into the narrative people he observed in the real world around him, the lyrics soon took on the palpable, painterly form that could only be a Bradford composition.
Though initially a funky guitar composition, feeling moved by the lyrics guitarist Ewan Butler resculpted the track with an idea of a ‘Johnny Cash’-pastiche sound in mind. “I’ve always enjoyed creating musical landscapes” says Ewan, “whether that be for others to embed their lyrical ideas into, or in the case of Ian’s preferred style of working, arranging the instrumentation around a more already defined structure.”
A profound meeting of minds that is testament to Ewan and Ian’s potent chemistry in effervescent form once more, the resultant track lopes and staggers like a wild west walk-through of a socially deprived town. Given a cinematic sheen at the control panels of Stephen Street, ‘Like Water’ is a suitably epic comeback of widescreen vision.
Together again with a new look line-up on illuminating form, ‘Like Water’ only signals there’s much more to come.
“This is by far and away the best thing we have made together” promises Ian H. “we would say that, but give it a listen please – we are so, so proud of ‘Bright Hours.”
‘Bright Hours’ the new album by Bradford will be released early-on in 2021.