Sunday, November 01, 2009

Richard Hawley, Truelove's Gutter

A run of form that shows no sign of drying up.

An unwritten rule has defined music through the decades. For all the industrial amount of pumped up Cowelled-out crap that ends up in bargain bins and the Land Of The Forgotten within six months, the most heartfelt and inspiring artists will sooner or later meet large-scale appreciation - be it after a decade or four.

And this will most certainly happen to Richard Hawley. He may not be a household name just yet, but his fifth solo album Truelove's Gutter confirms that one day he'll be remembered as one of the most consistent and inspired artists of this decade.

After the critical acclaim reaped by his two most recent albums Coles Corner and Lady's Bridge, Hawley wrongfooted everybody by releasing what is by far the darkest album of his career. If you thought his next move was going to build up on his growing commercial appeal, the release of an album like Truelove's Gutter confirms Hawley's complete lack of interest in mainstream success.

While his music was hardly S Club Party material to begin with, his previous albums still contained some brasher up-tempo tracks (think Just Like The Rain, Born Under A Bad Sign, Serious, Tonight The Streets Are Ours). Instead, his new work is a brave collection of longer and darker songs. Gone are the rockabilly-flavoured pastiches and epic arrangements- Hawley's latest output is an extremely sombre and minimalistic concept album that digs deep into themes of absence, loss and regret.

Truelove's Gutter is no background music. If you think you can put it on while doing the washing up or checking if people gave your Facebook status the thumbs up, then you may as well not bother. Hawley's music sits at odds with today's frenzy of randomly downloaded songs and disposable surf-as-you-go tracks. He really is doing his own thing, which means it's an experience you've got to enjoy in full. So sit down, turn both telly and computer off, dim the lights and make yourself a drink.

As The Dawn Breaks is the perfect intro. Stunningly eerie and almost Pink Floyd-esque in tone, it gently builds up into the perfect background for Hawley's impassionate, baritonal voice.

After Open Up Your Door, possibly the only weak moment here, the album picks up spectacularly with the reflective Ashes On The Fire and especially the 9-minute masterpiece Remorse Code, an emotional tale of despair complete with muted drums and the most hypnotic guitar line of the century. If you're familiar with Morrissey's back catalogue, just picture his 1994 cover of Moonriver- except even better.

The haunting Don't Get Hung Up In Your Soul - possibly one of Hawley's best tracks ever- brings the mood back to a gentler, calmer landscape, while the devastatingly tormented Soldier On pins you to your seat as it slowly grows into a wall of distorted, neurotic guitars (again, vaguely Pink Floydesque) - the only one of its kind on this album.

First single For Your Lover Give Some Time is a subtly ironic though melancholic ode to a fading love and further indication of Hawley's impeccable credentials as a very distinctive singer.

Final track Don't You Cry, featuring unorthodox instruments such as cristal baschet, waterphone and glass harmonica, builds up around an unforgettably sinister music box-like riff which makes The Ocean sound as chirpy as Vengaboys by comparison. And yet it's beautiful, compelling and mesmerising at once and, like the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, it will resonate around your head hours after it's ended.

In an age where everything is increasingly based on soundbites and ready-made, easily accessed consumer goods, all credit to Mute (home to Nick Cave and Depeche Mode amongst others) for betting on Truelove's Gutter and its emotional weight, gentle pace and soothing tone. This is Richard Hawley's fifth solo release and not a glitch so far.

Truelove's Gutter is out now on Mute Records.


Anonymous said...

Sounds fucking shite, mate.

claude said...

Good for you, Anonymous. You just wasted a precious 15/20 seconds of your life typing the above comment. Keep up with your rate of productivity in life!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Typical anon coward bullshit Claude, fuck 'em.

Charlie said...

With that sort of trenchant criticism Anonymous you should write for the NME, they'd love to have you.