Album Review: Richard Hawley

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Ago 22 2007, 15:16




Richard Hawley: Ladys Bridge

To the day-glo, fluro-hoodied
nu-rave-hardcore-baile-funk generation that define the scene of 'alternative' music today, Richard Hawley might seem like a joke. With his quiff always in various states of disrepair, suits that glint on his album covers, specs and writing endless songs about Sheffield, he cuts a unique figure. Yet (quoted in every single bloody review i've read of this album thus far) as Alex Turner of everybodys favourite chilly primates declared that 'Richard Hawleys been robbed!' from the stage of the Mercury Music Prize ceremony, people started to take him a lot more seriously. Favourable NME reviews, endless singles from the slice of gold that is Coles Corner and tours and interviews in papers and magazines ensued, but big-time success on the level of his younger brethren has eluded him.
So when Tonight The Streets Are Ours blasts through your speakers straight outta 1959, it looks like he hasn't changed. Lady's Bridge- another Sheffield landmark, after the damage it took during the recent floods, a friend of Hawleys remarked 'he'd better not name the next one after my street'- appears to be more of the same old Hawley. Frankly, after the his four mini-epics that preceded this, who would want him to?
So we get Valentine, a old style ballad which explodes with a string section (twice!), and features lyrics like 'I'm scared you don't need me anymore', the delicate Roll River Roll, about flooding (no, not those ones, although Hawley should try writing about sunshine and see what happens) and complemented with a twinkling piano solo and fragile guitars.

Many things can be said for Hawley, and one of those is that he isn't exactly the nippiest artist on the block. Those four albums, genius classic songwriting though they are, don't get very fast, the tempo barely raising the pulse of the listener, a few exceptions notwithstanding. However, it appears that he has discovered tempo, in the aforementioned Tonight The Streets are Ours, the boppy Serious and I'm Looking for Someone to Find Me- the latter being so fast that if it had distorted guitars instead of doo-wop it could be a Ramones song. This gives a welcome change from the ballads, not that they weren't valued.

For above all, Richard Hawley writes miserably. his lyrics deal with heartbreak, loss, loneliness and sometimes all at the same time. The sea is a metaphor thats frequently revisted, as are rivers and water of all sorts. However he, by some sort of miracle of self-awareness, doesn't let it sink into mopey melancholy. The answer is around somewhere, as Lady Solitude states, 'Gonna follow my dreams, someday they'll shine for me'. Such romantic optimism is rare in modern music, and feels like a time capsule from the 1950's, where heartfelt blokes with guitars roamed the land looking for that elusive woman who did them wrong.

And the music- sweet jesus, the music! if you've had the sheer pleasure of listening to Coles Corner, or Late Night Final, you will know of Richard's severe skill.
Guitars weep, piano melodies wander like rain, strings hover beautifully around the sky above Richards head, as his Orbison/Walker/Elvis/Cash-after-too-many-late-nights croon echoes throughout. A horn section makes it presence known in a truly jaw-dropping fashion, and i'm not telling which song its in because its really quite awesome and you need to hear it unexpectedly. in the background you can always hear about five or six acoustic guitars echo making it sound busy, with an electric ringing softly elsewhere adding ambience. The man, along with producer Colin Eliot, can really make an album sound fantastic.

A few of the Hawley faithful (Richard doesn't want 'people in Sheffield pubs to think badly' of him) will lament a few things- there's no instrumental, or the fact that there's always some degree of instrumentation on the tracks- no acoustic moments that defined Lowedges or the self-titled mini album are present here- but that is surely a moot point in the face of the eleven tracks of pure, unadulterated class on display here.

So while the rave/grindie/thrashcore kids look on confused at Hawley on the cover, lamenting some lost love on a leather couch, guitar by side, the rest of us sane music lovers can bathe in the fact that we have a true master in our hands here- may he carry on ploughing his furrow for a long while.

9.4/10
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post note- and, when i bought this record i saw Nick Cave in the shop :)

if after that glowing review you still need convincing, here's Hawley playing the lead single acoustically on Newsnight

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