“A Coming Of Age” By Lucky Soul.
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Lucky Soul produced a fantastic début album in the shape of 2007’s “The Great Unwanted”, a gorgeous, shimmering pop extravaganza that took its musical terms of reference from the girl group sound of the 1960’s. If Lucky Soul’s songwriter and guitarist Andrew Laidlaw drew some of his inspiration from Motown and Phil Spector for their début then the bands follow up “A Coming of Age” sees them veering between Studio 54 boogie to 50’s prom night heartbreak whilst still retaining that classic pop vibe that made “The Great Unwanted” such a well received album. Lucky Soul wear their influences on their sleeve but to dismiss them as proselytizers for nostalgia, or simply retro revivalists, would do the quality of both their song writing and delivery a grave disservice. Underneath the sheen, the strings, the sparkle and the glossy production lies an innate ability to produce killer pop tunes, which may look wistfully back into the past, but also clearly demonstrates they are in a different league to the ubiquitous pastiche- by- numbers brigade.
“A Coming Of Age” is infused with more than a hint of the sort of glitterball shimmer and disco fizz that could certainly tempt even the most rhythmically challenged to venture onto the dance floor and throw a few tentative shapes but like its predecessor it also provides the perfect soundtrack for the lost and the lovelorn. Laidlaw proves himself once again to be the master of the mature power pop song, a bedsit Burt Bacharach who combines tragic lyrics with timeless, cinematic pop. Add to the mix Ali Howard’s sonorous Dusty Springfield meets Sarah Cracknell vocals and you have a sure fire recipe for success. The album kicks off in fine style with the stomping “Woah Billy” a full on glam disco monster, whilst the impossible to resist groove of “White Russian Doll” sounds like Saint Etienne doing battle with the Smiths on the dance-floor of an all-nighter at Wigan Casino. Every track on the album is a lovingly crafted slice of polished pop and the only filler you’ll find on the album would be preceded by the word “floor”. The title track “A Coming Of Age” puts recent Bond themes in the shade, whilst “Upon Hilly Fields” may have the sort of title you’d expect to find on a Half Man Half Biscuit album, but is in fact a gorgeous, swoonsome country tinged ballad that sees Laidlaw on familiar song-writing terrain exploring his favourite themes, namely love, heartbreak and regret -“but my heart was crushed beneath your heel, and scattered like ash upon Hilly Fields”.
“A Coming Of Age” is another flawless gem of an album from a band who really should be huge, but rather bafflingly haven’t quite broken through into the wider public consciousness yet. Let’s hope this release will rectify that particular musical conundrum and go some way towards Lucky Soul gaining the public recognition their talent surely deserves. To celebrate the imminent release of the album we spoke to Andrew Laidlaw about all things Lucky Soul
VP: Your second album “A Coming Of Age “is set for release on 15th April . Has writing and recording it and getting it “out there” been a very different experience from recording “The Great Unwanted”? For example did you feel any pressure after the critical acclaim your début received?
ANDREW : Second Album Syndrome? It’s a little more difficult in some ways and requires a more steely resolve as you haven’t got that first rush of giddy excitement where everything’s new, but you counter that with experience. This album definitely felt more of a long term relationship than a first crush. We put more pressure on ourselves internally to really hammer out the arrangements and make sure that only the cream went on the record.
Writing in two years as opposed to four is harder but to be honest I haven’t really got much control over when the songs come out of me. They either come along or they don’t. We produced this one ourselves so there was a lot more work to do and budgets these days are tighter so we had to try and make a superior album for half the price that means logistically you have to think things through a lot more.
I haven’t seen many bands get the kind of press that we got on our first record, so I’ve resigned myself to it not being as good this time, even though I think we’ve made a better record. Though we’re not strictly ‘new’ anymore, it’s not like we’ve ever been a buzz band, so there’s no danger of scenes passing us by, because we’ve always been outsiders anyway.
VP: Lead single “White Russian Doll” would indicate that the new album will be a natural progression from your debut. Does the album title reflect how you feel as a band?
ANDREW: Well ‘A Coming Of Age’, the song, refers to feelings of innocence lost and moments of realization; feelings which permeate the album but obviously it can be read many different ways.
We’re definitely more confident and assured as a band now and that reflects on the album, it’s not a radical departure but absolutely a step forward, a warmer, darker, more direct and longer lasting record I think. Everyone is more accomplished musically. Ivor’s guitar work comes through more and Ali’s singing has really improved and Art’s pianos make things a little jazzier.
Our new rhythm section (well, since the last album), Paul and Rusty suggested it as the album title. We like to make a grand statement.
VP: Behind the shimmering pop there’s always more than a hint of melancholy, heartache and despair, would you it be fair to say you’re more of a “troubled soul” than a “lucky Soul”
ANDREW: I don’t know many happy, rounded songwriters.
VP: How difficult is it for a band to self release an album given the current economic climate plus the culture of file sharing? I read an excellent blog by Ali about the “music for free” generation and how it can effect musicians, which did give me pause for thought.
ANDREW It’s getting harder all the time. With file sharing it’s not very nice for me as a musician to know that I worked really hard for 3 years, spent a lot of time and money getting it right and then someone can take my baby for nothing. If I was a shop keeper and people took my produce for free, it would be considered stealing but a whole generation has grown up thinking it’s their right to get music for free so I think it’s not going to change. Some people get very self righteous about it. The fact is there are people making good money out of file sharing, but it’s not the bands or even the labels, it’s the service providers and the file sharing sites.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with people sharing music, that’s how word gets around and everybody does it, but a little education and perspective would be good. I mean an album now is about the same price as two pints of beer in London and for that you can have something to listen to and enjoy for the rest of your life… I don’t think it’s too much to expect someone to pay for it.
There’s an argument to say just put concert prices up and keep recorded music free, but personally I would rather it was the other way around, because I can control the music you get to hear from us but I can’t promise you you’ll have a great night out because someone might spill a beer over you or the PA might be crap or something.
I categorically never got into a band to make money, but you do need some income to be able to make decent records.
VP: I believe you recently fell in love,……with Berlin ? What is it about that city and musicians?
ANDREW : Something about the amount of space there is maybe? Gives you a lot of time to think. Plus it’s beautifully lit, has a cosy bar on every corner and has this real sense of history, a weight, without being ruled by it, which it could easily be. I think also because of past oppression, there’s a sense of enjoying its freedom which is creatively stimulating. I could live there easily.
VP: You’ve supported the Wedding Present a fair bit over the last few years. To some The Weddos buzz saw guitars and your glittering pop may seem a strange union. What sort of a reception did you get from Mr Gedge’s fans?
ANDREW : Surprisingly good actually. It was weird because the Weddos were the proper first band I saw live, so it was one of those milestones for me. David Gedge has written some great pop tunes in his time and is very melodic, despite the clatter, which is where we fit in. Plus, live, we’re much louder and more raucous than on our recordings so there’s not too far to travel. For the record I would like to say that Mr.Gedge is not a grump and was most welcoming to us, as were the Weddos fans.
VP: When writing a new album do you listen to a lot of new music and find yourself being influenced by it? Or do you hermetically seal your ears to outside influences as you already have an idea of the direction you wish the album to take?
ANDREW : This year I have listened to more new stuff than at any point over the last five years but when I’m writing I get a bit scared of ripping someone modern off by accident and coming up with the same record. I think if you gonna steal anyone’s ideas, you should take time to make sure they’re good first! I try and learn from the old stuff where there’s much less baggage and opinion so you can make your own mind up.
VP: 2009? A good year for music? What were your highlights?
ANDREW : Well I spent pretty much December 2008 to October 2009 listening to Lucky Soul everyday so the only things that come to mind are the Fleet Foxes (I know that was the year before but I’m always behind) and the XX who I chanced across during soundcheck when my friend was doing the sound for them and they were stunning and felt totally unique.
VP: What are your plans for 2010?
ANDREW : Get this record out on tour, both in the UK and round the world again. Ideally I’d like to be back in the studio by the autumn so we don’t have such a long gap between albums this time. 3 years is too long for anyone.
VP: Five words to encapsulate the essence of “A Coming Of Age ?”
ANDREW : I’ll take the first line of the title track:
“Innocence fell at the first”
Original photos by Glen Wilkins
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