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The Wave Pictures : City Forgiveness

Listening to City Forgiveness, Loughborough-via-London trio The Wave Pictures‘ latest long-player (their eleventh in total – I think? – in less than a decade), it is at once hard to believe they have never really made it big in indie-rock circles and easy to see why. Frontman Dave Tattersall’s charming, clever, witty and often moving songs recall Morrissey and Daniel Johnston, Jens Lekman and Jonathan Richman, making them fairly obvious objects of affection for NME readers and the hipper Pitchfork faithful alike, yet the band have always seemed happily stuck in something of a stylistic rut, producing album after album of twee, chug-along bedroom indie-pop as if nobody had found it in their heart to break the news that John Peel was no longer around to play them on the radio. City Forgiveness is no great leap forward in that respect, but as unassuming as it may be the sheer size and consistent quality of the 20-track, 90 minute double-LP set really hammers home just what a great band The Wave Pictures are: drafted in the back of a van driving from show to show during a six-week American tour last year and completed in “a jet-lagged state” upon their return, these songs are all of the highest standard, without a duff tune or a hint of filler among them. With so many subjects covered, it’s like Christmas come early for fans of Tattersall’s lyrics. On “Before This Day” he describes his earliest childhood memory, effortlessly combining the mundane (“Dad is painting window frames at the top of the house/ Mum steadies the ladder with a slippered foot“) and the magical (“I run through grass that has grown tall above my head/ I am a million miles away“), whilst quirky love song “Missoula” similarly juxtaposes the sublime and the ridiculous, the singer crooning “You’ve got a cute way of talking/ You make me feel like dancing/ Naked across the motel room/ My beer belly bouncing in the afternoon“; “Red Cloud Road (Part 2)”, meanwhile, not only demonstrates Tattersall’s knack for suggestive scene-setting (“I had been hanging around in bars, singing slightly out of tune/ My teeth shone so brightly in those places, it looked like I’d swallowed the moon“) but also his ability to twist old cliches into smart new shapes (“If I had an aeroplane, I would fly through the sky I would write your name/ In mile-high letters to better the blue sky with a mention of your presence“). Equally important, though, is the musicianship displayed by all three members of the band. It’s a rare thing these days for a record to remind you of the immense joy to be found in a band simply clicking and playing brilliantly together, but Tattersall, Franic Rozycki (bass) and Jonny Helm (drums) here transform Velvet Underground-inspired three-chord rockers into engaging and occasionally hypnotic jams, adding subtle rhythmic flair (nods to African pop and South American traditional dance styles) and using the extended song durations to fit in dozens of genuinely thrilling guitar solos, allowing Tattersall to indulge his inner Johnny Marr/ Mark Knopfler/ Marc Ribot/ Ebo Taylor. This is a band seemingly unconcerned with being “cool” or “relevant”, and whilst that is a quality worth celebrating their comparative lack of success so far shows up the music industry for the piss-poor show it is: put simply, City Forgiveness is a glorious album, and one that truly deserves the wider recognition The Wave Pictures have yet to acheive.

City Forgiveness is out now via Moshi Moshi; check out “Lisbon” below, and try the whole thing before you buy via The Line Of Best Fit

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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