I’m writing this on my birthday. I wake up to the sound of my cat clawing at the curtains; my eyes catching tiny glimpses of morning light with each scratch. I decide to hide under the covers for the best part of an hour before finally accepting defeat and dragging myself out of bed. I slowly shuffle towards the bathroom, look into the mirror and see a tired, reluctant face staring back. I’ve never much liked my face – it reminds me too much of my father, and with each passing year it feels more like his than my own. My relationship with my dad is virtually non-existent – he had an affair with my best friend’s Mum when I was 13 years old. He seems to have completely given up on the idea of repairing the damage between us these days; I don’t even get a card.
I listen to Francis Lung’s ‘Back One Day’ to cheer myself up – it’s a song that manages in a few triumphant minutes to reaffirm my belief in life and love. There’s a raw honesty in Tom McLung’s lyrics, and the tender piano notes feel almost Daniel Johnston-esque in their tone. The impressively cathartic chorus breaks free with almost willful abandonment. McLung’s solo ambitions have been in the works since he was a teenager, taking a backseat during the WU LYF days, but always there… his song-writing being patiently refined and developed. Having built up a reputation for an impassioned live show, McLung seems to be able to delicately balance both the intimate and more extrovert aspects of performance. The clean white suit he wears demands the audience to look at him… but when you do, you see a performer lost in his own world… and the accompanying video to ‘Back One Day’ reflects this, with Manchester visual artist Ella Deacy keeping the focus on McLung’s anguished facial movements. At times McLung reminds me of John Lennon, his melodies are beautifully simple in their structure, or at least they seem that way; I guess that’s the trick to all great pop music.
A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of enjoying my morning cycle to work, when I suddenly found myself flailing towards the cold concrete floor, hitting the deck with an almighty thud. The car driver, clearly at fault for the collision, heartlessly left me lying there like I didn’t exist. As a result, my arm is now cushioned in a sling, nursing a dislocated shoulder. This is the first time I’ve felt like writing since the accident, and although typing is a slow painful process, Manchester’s Church Party are certainly worth every word.
I’ve kept a close eye on this band now for the best part of a year, secretly hoping that they would become more than just a couple of promising demos, and it seems like my faith might be rewarded. Dancing confidently on the graveyard of WU LYF’s heavy pop, debut single ‘Isosceles‘ glistens in melodic guitar lines but remains defiantly raw, urgent… Tom Stewart’s yearning vocals disappearing into a state of wasted euphoria and pounding drums. I can already hear the climactic “take me home” echoing in my mind, never to be forgotten.
Swallow Me Whole then takes us into Nick Cave territory, beginning life as a shadowy baritone lullaby, which sways eerily in atmosphere, patiently marching towards something far bigger… it’s underlying menace growing more prominent, before finally unleashing it’s visceral conclusion; an explosion of scuzzy noise and the strained howls of regret and despair.
The last time I saw Ellery James Roberts, we were colliding into each other at a Kult Country gig down at the SWAYS Bunker. I broke my wrist that night, and I really didn’t have a care in the world. I honestly can’t remember feeling like that since… Manchester has been missing a spark, a fire… and Ellery’s return could not have been better timed. Now releasing under the name LUH (Lost Under Heaven), Unites feels like a natural progression from his debut solo material Kerou’s Lament. There is something very impassioned, conflicted within his soul and you can hear the vulnerability in that distinctive gravelly voice. Guitar melodies playfully repeat themselves, but always moving forward together, tiny musical collisions with an explosive ending.
In my humble opinion, Ménage à Trois are one of the most fascinating and beautiful acts currently in development here in Manchester. It’s been a whole year now since our three sisters first emerged with their glorious cover of ‘Islands In The Stream’ and I keep waiting for the rest of the world to truly wake up. It’s no underestimation to say I’ve already listened to first full-length release Pride nearly 50 times in the last couple of days… opener ‘Ocean Breeze’ is a brooding affair built around the sentiment “I can make you fall in love… if I wanted”, and I can’t see that being anything other than true. ‘Conditional Love’ sees them head into Ariel Pink territory, a seductive instrumental that swoons it’s way towards
‘Crazy. Sexy. Cruel’, a deliberately yearning slow jam that showcases Jonathan Flanders lush vocals. ‘Car Song’ and ‘Argentina’ both see the synth take over proceedings, we’re talking pure and unashamed 80’s vibe with a cinematic and orchestral quality, almost Vangelis at times. It’s fair to say that as a collection of work, ‘Pride’ fits perfectly together… there is no clear stand-out single in the way they out funked Daft Punk on ‘White Noise’ but it’s all the better for being this way… musically, visually and artistically, The Bogans of Life just have ‘it’.
It’s getting pretty hard to keep track of post-LYF endeavours. Tom McClung is carving out a solo career as Francis Lung. Joe Manning has been breaking hearts as part of alt-pop venture Ménage à Trois, teased us with the mysterious Rainbow Torches… and now unveils latest project Dream Lovers with Evans Kati. Keeping up? Don’t forget McClung, Manning and Kati formed nu-disco group Los Porcos with FAMY too. Ellery James Roberts for the time being remains silent, his only statement being the beautiful and grandiose ‘Kerou’s Lament’, leaving us wanting more.
It’s certainly remarkable how all four former WU LYF members are creatively pushing themselves to new heights. Dream Lovers début composition Go, Gauguin, Go is yet another example of just how talented they are… a swaying, instrumental jam that takes you to another place, crossing a melancholy ocean into a dream.
Just over a year ago, I promoted Glasgow’s Holy Esque to a packed Manchester audience… their performance was impassioned, raw and with just enough vulnerability contained in Pat Hyne’s vocal to bring you close to understanding why Holy Esque might just be the real deal. Afterwards my memory is a little scant but a few badly taken photo’s did at least give me some insight into the fun we had. Honestly, never drink with Glaswegians on tour… you WILL end up passed out.
Sovereign marks the beginning of an exciting new direction for Holy Esque, moving from a guitar led sound to a more electronic one. What is exciting is they’ve managed to retain the dark elements from their original material, adding a certain seductive quality within the dense textures. Hyne’s voice is again the focal point, his delivery a masterclass in holding your attention… leading you towards that climatic and devastating conclusion.