Monday, February 01, 2016

Album Review :: The Wave Pictures - A Season In Hull

The Wave Pictures

A Season In Hull

February 12 2016 (Wymeswold Records)


Words: Richard O'Hagan

It is common, particularly at this time of year, for reviewers to complain that there’s nothing new or different going on in music, that things are repeating themselves time and time again. To some extent this is understandable – there are only so many notes, so many keys, and so many ways to put them together. In some respects it is surprising that things don’t end up sounding more homogenous than they do.

There are some things in music that you definitely don’t expect to come around again, though. One of these is people making albums in praise of Hull. Not since The Housemartins were getting all jangly and cynical on us back in the 80s (pop quiz: What happened to the two who weren’t Norman Cook or Paul Heaton?) has anyone felt the need to write almost an hour in praise of Larkin’s birthplace. And yet this is precisely what The Wave Pictures have done.

And just to make things even less commercial, they’ve made an album which is only physically available on vinyl and which is entirely acoustic. Don’t let that put you off, though. This is no Rod, Jane & Freddy strumathon. Instead, Dave Tattersall and co turn what is essentially an extended jam session (the songs were all recorded on one day, into a single microphone) into something which is, at times, quite wonderful. Guitars are pushed to their acoustic limits, there is a good variety in terms of mood and tempo and if some of it gets a bit silly at times then, in a way, that’s a part of the charm, too.

Even the song titles are at least interesting and at times confusing. ‘Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous’ is actually a love song about listening to the acclaimed album. ‘Memphis Slim in Paris’ is pretty much incomprehensible and ‘Tropical Fish’ is both jangly and bleak, opening with imagery of fish flopping on a floor.

The only thing that gives away that this was something of an off the cuff project are the lyrics, which are at times a bit tortured – the starfish planning for spring in October on ‘Slick Black River From The Rain’, for example – and sometimes just completely wrong; anyone who has had or been a teenager will tell you that they tend not to make molehills out of mountains, as ‘The Pharmacy Cross’ implies. But yes, we’re being very picky here. This is Hull from an angle that The Beautiful South never explored, and a very listenable one at that.

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