The album cover is interesting, a combination of design and actual photos - "A New Town" they've been thinking about half-sketched out. Plenty of questions in the titles ("Who'll Pay The Bills?" and "How Many More Times?"), all carrying a kind of sense of the domestic. Definitely music for the kitchen table, staring out at fast, grey skies. Where people hear XTC (and maybe have people have heard the same pastoral pop tones), I also get a strange sense of a Kate Bush backing band, a version without the eye-catching figurehead; or an organic Clor. The Brewis Brothers are always linked with Clor in my head. I think they emerged about the same time and shot the same cracked melodic rainbows out while they were at it.
"(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing" sums up the self-reflexive pattern of the album, holding the same idea in the mind's eye, turning it over and over. "A New Town" has got to be the most-winningly bloodless syncopated unfunk I've ever heard. "Choosing Sides" starts like the theme to "Pob", which is good - a Saturnine tuba on the moon of Encephalus: "There is no model for what we have/It's only ever/Ever won by accident." It seems the key track to the album after a couple of listens at least.
"I want a different idea of what better could mean/Which doesn't involve/Treating someone else like shit/I'm so complicit" There's a moral for city life right there that some of the more doleful elements of Mancunian society could pick up on. A northern Fight Club antidote.
"So Long Then" is a farewell to some love with McCartney-like cellos churning and epic gong crashes for no apparent reason, but it's just a slip of a thing lyrically: "See you there in the evening/Glass of wine and a beer for me/That was the thing you were leaving/Got the notes that you sent me/No reply but I wish that I/'d seen you before you had gone." And that's it.
Restless, soulful finger symphonies trying to examine what is going on and how they feel about it. Just peachy.
Rating: Drawing Plans out of Cloudy Premonitions