Saturday, October 25, 2014
Album Review :: Joseph Coward - The World Famous Joseph Coward
The World Famous Joseph Coward
October 27 2014 (Stiffy Byng)
Words: Dave Beech
Born in Brentwood, Essex, Joseph Coward left both school and home in the space of a year, carving out an existence in London, attracted by the promise of a scene which never caught on. Now 22, Coward is on the cusp of releasing his debut album, the ironically egocentric 'The World Famous Joseph Coward'. “I have no interest in trying to be nice. My one interest in life is really being honest, that's the nature of my work as well”. And it shows.
'...Joseph Coward' is a record of stark truths, simple, albeit poetic lyricism and an almost religious-like appreciation of both his influences (worn not so much on his sleeve, as waved on a banner above his head) and music as a whole. When Coward says he spent his youth doing nothing but listening to, and reading about, music you really believe him. Opener 'Hypersleep', for instance, surges forward, a monolithic wall of guitar fuzz behind it, bringing to mind Sonic Youth or Ride; an oddly arresting contrast to the Morrissey-esque vocal delivery.
It's not just Morrissey channelled by Coward either, previous single 'Thin' smacks of the goth grandeur of Echo & the Bunnymen through ambitious loops and layered guitars, and it soon becomes apparent that, though his appreciation of music is universal, his real love is for the 1980s. Even on the indie-pop inspired 'Lucky to Have Me', the jangly, Jesus and Mary Chain guitars are uncharacteristically tight, even when compared to their inspiration.
'Sarah, Plain & Tall' is a woozy lo-fi number with an inherent darkness that pervades the hazy fragility, making for one of the most heartfelt and poignant tracks on the record - no easy feat given the prevalent honesty across the board. Interestingly, perhaps the most unassuming and under-produced track on the record is also one of the strongest. 'The Emperor of America' comes across like a polished version of The Mountain Goats, with a touch of Neutral Milk Hotel thrown in for good measure, harbouring the emotional frankness of both.
For someone as determined to make a name for themselves as Joseph Coward is, I'd say he's made a pretty strong first step with his debut. The attention to detail and painstaking effort that's gone in to making '...Joseph Coward' is admirable in itself, not to mention the genuine musicianship that Coward possesses - even if the occasional lyric does sometimes leave a little to be desired.
Perhaps the only gripe with the record is how often it sounds like his influences, though given a year or two, providing he finds more of his own voice (and there's no reason at all to say he won't), Coward could easily become a household name.