From: London, England
You'd have to have a very good memory and have been one of the first readers of the blog to remember a great band called Gifthorse. They were included in the first post ever to appear on the blog 8 years ago (presciently titled I've Started Something.......) and I still hold their Childhood Gang Reunion EP dear to my musical heart. Well the good news is that Gifthorse singer Brian is back with a new(ish) band, The Understudies (first featured on the blog 5 years ago The Apprentices) and a new album, Let Desire Guide Your Hand. The even better news is that it fulfils all the promise of the early Gifthorse songs.
The London five piece have spent years perfecting their fusion of the fey romanticism of Edwyn Collins and the young Morrissey with the bleak lyricism of Brett Anderson and the English pop sensibilities of Paul Heaton and it's paid off, beautifully. Album opener Jackie sets the tone for the rest of the album with singer Brian Bryden's unconventional, captivating vocals emitting an endearing vulnerability, like a lovelorn Collins in his Orange Juice pomp. Erika K is the kind of upbeat, soulful English pop that flowed from the Housemartins hit factory in the 80s. Everyone Deserves At Least One Summer Of Love sounds like Morrissey after a Berocca overdose while the bleak yet beautiful romanticism of Wading Birds, with lyrics referencing estuaries and dual carriageways, is one of the album's many highlights recalling the early, and best, days of Suede.
On Shutterspeed Brian hands over the vocal duties to Bree and suddenly they're transformed into a pure 60s pop group all tambourines and softly orgasmic backing vocals. I can't help thinking this is what Morrissey was aiming for, but never quite achieved, in the Smiths collaboration with Sandie Shaw. The only downside is that they haven't included a cover of the brilliant Gifthorse song Happy Daggers, one of my favourite songs from the last 10 years and a song that deserves to be heard by the widest audience possible.
Their modest name belies an ambition to place pure British pop back were it belongs, these Understudies are about to take centre stage.
The Understudie - Facebook
For those of you who haven't heard Happy Daggers by one of the earlier incarnations of The Understudies singer Brian get your listening gear around this...