Friday, May 09, 2008

Sunshine on Pilgrim Road

Damn this fine, sunny weather we are enjoying in the UK at the moment. It doesn't really suit the sombre mood I was looking forward to listening to the new Willard Grant Conspiracy album in. Surely based on past performances, Pilgrim Road was going to be a long wallow in dark misery? Well....

I first heard WGC's The Work Song on a compliation (What Young Kids In London Are Listening To) from Mr N. I loved the song, bought the album but didn't fall in love with this straight away. It took several months, if not years, for the whole album to work its way into the brain. But I kept buying WGC, particularly their masterpiece Regard The End.

And so the new album released this Monday just gone. But it's something different; for starters the song-writing is a collaboration with Scottish composer Malcolm Lindsay, who also provides the arrangements - more chamber orchestra than rock band.

So after a couple of listens the thing that stands out is the small differences; rather than the usual deep-voiced growl, Robert Fisher's voice is almost a stately croon (and probably why a cover of American Music Club's Miracle on Eighth Street works so well. Wouldn't have thought it but ruminative Mark Eitzel rather than fire and brimtone preacher Nick Cave vocal style works here). Rather than brooding misery of the past what strikes me is the refined, delicate settings: the strings don't suggest loneliness or despair as previously but grace, even redemption. The whole thing is more graceful baroque than noir gothic. And certainly different from some of the last album Let It Roll where the guitars were definitely set to 'rock' on songs like Crush.

Two listens in it is early days and this not a review (I don't do reviews, just uninformed, biased, opinion) just some initial observations but so far I think it works. I suspect Pilgrim Road will be a slow burn but hopefully will be listening to it long after the warm weather has gone.

And will be interesting to see how this album but also older songs fare when played by The Pilgrim Chamber Orchestra. The UK dates are:
May 14 Manchester, Academy 2
15 Edinburgh, Queens Hall
16 Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
17 Bristol, Trinity
18 London, Bloomsbury Theatre

Willard Grant Conspiracy
Mojave [BUY]

Willard Grant Conspiracy
Pilgrim Road [BUY]

American Music Club
Everclear [BUY]

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