(3 / 5)
“The sound of tomorrow and yesterday: Talk-Show blend Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk and McCartney into new pop”. So the PR blurb says that came with the music. It goes on:
“With a nod to the future and a nod to the past, Talk-Show make smart music: Lou Reed, Sir Paul, German electronica – a heady cocktail of influence and yet once heard, it’s easy to say, that’s Talk-Show alright”.
Well, I am not sure what they were drinking when whoever wrote that, wrote that; but I’d like a few pints of it please! If there’s any hint of the sounds and styles of any of those three iconic names in music anywhere on this record, the producer must have hit “mute” on the mixing desk by mistake!
The likes of Squeeze, Nick Lowe, George Harrison, Al Stewart and a few others came up in my mind while giving these 10 tracks an ear-holing, but none of the above, at all.
Hailing from Maidstone, Talk-Show sensed their marriage of raw guitar, vocal and retro synth might have legs. Taking demos of their debut long-player “Permanent Honeymoon” to song-writing legend Boo Hewerdine, they were thrilled when he agreed to oversee production.
Boo recalls: “These bittersweet vignettes of love gone wrong, right, and everything in between were a kind of new-wave ‘Aspects Of Love’. It was clear Lawrence [O’Shea, writer] had a singular voice; an eccentric with a rare gift of making the clever sound simple.”
Boo wasn’t the only one impressed. An early exercise in putting the feelers out, 2015’s appetite-whetting EP, “All Messed Up (And Nowhere To Go)” got BBC airplay and prompted one music writer to declare Talk-Show, “expansive and glorious….and another spouted: “As good a listen as the music fan can expect to have…flourishing mastery”. **** Others observed the “classy song-writing”, noting O’Shea (a literature major) to be no slouch in the lyric department.
This 10-track album boasts a subject-tackling ambition; which runs the full gamut from teenage crushes (Molly Ringwald), middle age (Time Thieves), fatherhood (Hello Beautiful), through to wartime balladry (Silent Film), and a blunt plea with the missus to ‘get it on’ (Sure Thing).
Kick-off radio track is “Mademoiselle”. Not a cut I’d personally expect to be picked up by many DJs, and I do think there are stronger tracks for airplay, but O’Shea explains the choice: “Audiences are telling us they hear youthful energy, longing, regret and reflection in the songs. I like to think ‘Mademoiselle’ encapsulates all these in one burst. Plus, it has a chorus that goes ‘do do do’, which never did The Police any harm!”
Talk-Show have shared the stage with the likes of Squeeze, Frank Turner, Brand New Heavies and many others – but in a previous one-man and a guitar incarnation. Talk-Show will tour in 2018 – and is very much a group now.
Made up of Lawrence on lead vocals, backing vocals, piano, acoustic/electric guitar, bass, and synths. Gustaf Llunggren provides brass, woodwind, strings and lap steel guitar. Chris Pepper – who recorded, mixed and produced this record – plays drums, percussion, programming, guitar, bass and synths.
Boo Hewerdine pops up on acoustic/electric guitar and bass, Sarah Ozelle delivers backing vox on three cuts, and Brooks Williams “backwards guitar solo” on track four, “Sure Thing”. All the songs are penned by Lawrence O’Shea. The clever old thing. One of those albums which will grow on you the more you hear it. A smile will suddenly appear from nowhere on your boat race, even if you have just read my bank statement!!
It’s all good fun and a bit quirky, not taking itself too seriously and not trying to reinvent the wheel or be the next big thing. Just music to cheer us up on those cold, dark winter days, and any album that kicks off with a track called “Molly Ringwald” has got to be up for a giggle, eh? Go on, what was that film she starred in, circa 1985, about naughty kids in detention at school? You know, you know…ohhh, it’s on the tip of your tongue,isn’t it? No Googling it, that’s cheating.
So. Best tracks. Personal taste of course; one man’s meat is another man’s Marmite, or something like that. I cannot stand Marmite, but once I got into this stuff, overall I enjoyed this record and have given it four spins thus far. Awarded it a respectful three out of five stars for my review. On our Star Rating system here, that means it is = “Decent”. It is. Very decent.
The first cut, “Molly Ringwald” sets us off on a punk pop/skater pop vibe, a retro 70s feel to it, with a nice “Hey, hey” hook to the chorus. The vocal is not gonna set the world on fire, and needs a few tracks to bed in, but it works fine with this material.
“Time Thieves” did not do it for me; it goes into a reggae thing some 42 seconds in and then back into the original flavour soon after, and sounds like two different songs, and then it does it again. Lovely lap steel part on “Work In Progress”. “Get Back To The Sun” has a Prog’ meets ELO sound about it, and is probably the strongest cut for me.
It’s a mixed bag of styles and the genres Mr O’Shea covers here as a composer; singer-songwriter, pop, rock, acoustic, punk-pop, skater-pop and the kitchen sink too. An uneven listen as regards trying to nail him down into a specific niche and sound of his own, and of this unit as a band.
But that’s OK, his/their choice to mix it all up and be totally himself/themselves musically. Even if it’d be impossible to file this under any one section in a record store (if there are any left!) or on-line. An acquired taste, but like Marmite, some may well really love it. This review is for them then…Different can be good.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’