By Post War Glamour Girls
I have long been a fan of Post War Glamour Girls. Well, as far as it's possible to have 'long been a fan' of something that's only been with us since the end of 2010. I have championed them on these pages, championed them to friends, colleagues and promoters, championed them to anyone who would listen - I have made no secret of the fact that I feel they are the best new band around. And I'm not the only one.
So, when the Editor said she had a special assignment for me, and I accessed the link, I did wonder if I'd set myself up for a fall? Would the album that seems so long-awaited (there have been rumours of its imminent release floating around since early 2012) live up to such high expectations? Clicking 'play' for the first time, I was actually nervous.
No need - I had goosebumps by the end of first track. Live favourite 'Sestra' is an inspired, hairs-on-end opening, with confident peaks and troughs, the PWGG-calling-card dark and light, intense sound contrasted with adjacent considered quiet. Frontman James Smith, in the crescendo, allows his preacherman scream off the lead just the right amount as he implores us to "step on the brakes" and Alice Scott's soft, solo opening vocal is as gorgeous as ever.
Those have actually been among the most enjoyable aspects of watching PWGG develop in the past few years; James learning to harness his impressive snarl, now knowing when to hint at its use, when to let it rip and how far to let it go (also evident here on previous single, the excellent 'Lightbulb') and the distinctive and delightful dovetailing of James and Alice's Nick Cave vs. PJ Harvey vocals. This is, of course, key to the PWGG sound, and has been honed beautifully from one release to the next. 'Red Terror' is a very good example, but of course the album is peppered with very good examples.
In fact, from the 2011 double A-side teaser 'Spitting Pearls/Song for Harry Dean' - both impressive at the time but both now absent from live shows - to the 2012 'Tragic Loss' EP which was truly the sound of a band becoming comfortable with its workings and its songwriting, to this accomplished debut full-length release, the sheer relentlessness of the band's evolution as a whole has been a joy to behold.
For this is the sound of a refined and self-assured Post War Glamour Girls. This is the sound of a band who has learned their trade, of a band who are ready to take their brooding yet witty, gentle but jagged sound to ever more appreciative audiences in ever further flung fields. The album often sounds like it is purposefully marching forward, 'Little Land' and 'Service Station Blues' cases in point, and the same can be said of PWGG themselves. In short, the record feels like it has been put together by four people who know what they are doing. A band with a plan; Or, if not a plan, at least a seemingly endless capacity to improve and impress.
The confidence to echo parts of the lyrics from opener 'Sestra', in album closer 'Brat', suggests a collective twinkle in the eye, and that closer is maybe even suggestive of direction to come with the sampled intro. Lyrically, we veer between the epic and the kitchen sink, with northern touch points reminiscent of Jarvis Cocker or band-name inspiration John Cooper Clarke (who James brings to mind towards the end of Service Station Blues). Throughout, there are shards of eclectic and apposite influences piercing into the fabric of the album and it seems you can pick up additional ones on each listen. This is a musically accomplished, multi-layered affair, which lends itself to - nay demands - listening again and again and, frankly, in 2014 that's what we should all be doing.