August 25, 2007
Review: Lucky Soul's The Great Unwanted
Isn’t that photo gorgeous? It’s Lucky Soul’s vocalist, Ali Howard, on the cover of their newest single, the wickedly titled One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer (out on September 3).
In April of this year, Greenwich's Lucky Soul released an album of pure unadulterated joy. There is nothing angsty or dour about The Great Unwanted. It has some beautiful moments that play to the perpetually forlorn (me), but the broader effect is fizzy pop.
It was the band’s early single Ain’t Never Been Cool that attracted me. The song is a distillation of the band’s trademark sound: cooing female vocals mixed with dapper horns, strings, smashing drums, an iron clad melody. All elements build to mantra-like finales that can be shouted by a crowd of partygoers, leaving them in a heaping mass of sweaty bliss when the song ends. If the final 30 seconds of Never Been Cool don’t get you revved, nothing will. Phenomenal.
Title track The Great Unwanted is, without doubt, one of the finest songs of 2007. The band wisely gave this one away to bloggers in the early part of the year. If you’re forever on a first date – doomed, like me - there’s something just about this song. Especially the booming finale (that starts at 3:10): “Look for us, we were the casualties, forever paying a price for a life less boring / Look for us 'cause when the tables turn, you’ll be saying a prayer to the great unwanted... we will not be ignored.”
If song titles are like book covers, how can you go wrong with this album: Get Outta Town!, Add Your Light To Mine Baby, My Darling Anything. The awesome Lips Are Unhappy (video) has this brilliant 90-second coda consisting of these lyrics: shake shimmy shimmy. Repeated over and over. If this played in a bar I was drinking in, I’d be bouncing like a pogo stick, drinking sloshing onto the floor.
My Darling Anything is a tear-soaked 50’s ballad, with one of those sad guitars that cries down the scales (listen at :10 seconds in). Cleverly, the beat matches the lyric: “I’ve got a heart condition / Just listen closer / Every fourth beat is missing” (I think it was Lucas who caught that?) The ending is pretty and chill inducing, with Ali repeating, “I’ll do anything you want, I’ll do anything it takes.”
Great lyrics abound on The Great Unwanted. Lucky Soul knows how to wring a metaphor: “The towering inferno inside me / May one day consume me and devour me / Well I say, 'Let it burn! Let it burn!'" (guess the song title) or this gem from My Brittle Heart: “I need you more than a life raft needs the shore / Wave come lapping at my door/ A sadness never felt before.”
While Add Your Light is not my favorite song – and, in hindsight, perhaps the wrong one to launch the album back in April - it’s a fine example of the band’s use of horns. This is sound I think Paul Weller was honoring in the early days of The Style Council. Just listen to his oldie Speak Like A Child for evidence.
Strings also play a big part in the Lucky Soul sound. I am not sure how they approximate them live, but My Brittle Heart (watch the video) is a great example. They seesaw and swoop, guiding the mood like movie music. I suspect Lucky Soul’s sound is actually quite massive live. Theirs is the kind of music that leaves you in a heart-racing sweat at the end of their set. It’s a great follow-up to last year’s Spector revival with The Pipettes. [No small miracle, since I can’t stand most 50’s/60’s music] What Lucky Soul brings with The Great Unwanted is a kind of adult elegance, sophistication and a lot of passion.
Finally, I need to note again, the album has the best band photos / design of this year. I love the tie logo and photos of Ali and the boys looking retro-cool in decidedly faded settings (see more artwork here). Like Brighton in the Brittle Heart video, where a ghost pier is crumbling into the sea, there’s respect in letting the past go on its own terms. Don’t tear it down; just revel in what made it great and bring your own glamour.
Lucky Soul My Brittle Heart video
Lucky Soul Add Your Light To Mine Baby video
Buy it in the UK on CD or online / in the US online / See more Lucky Soul posts
Thanks to Seb for all the art