Skeleton Key Records (label)
30 July 2020 (released)
30 July 2020
In Paul Du Noyer’s superlative tome on Liverpool he writes of The Wirral or ‘at least along the Mersey Strip of it, you have a place that might be romantically described as Liverpool’s very own New Jersey. It’s true that it’s yet to produce its Springsteen or Sinatra or even its Bon Jovi …’
However, the peninsular (The Mersey that way, The Dee the other) ‘has’ managed to contribute considerably in terms of self-effacing, all-embracing best of all worlds blue-eyed blue-collar pop/rock/poets artisans with alert antennae forever looking inwards/outwards (OMD’s Europhiliac emotionalism to Half Man Half Biscuit’s punk-folk surrealist prose).
Further down the coastline Hoylake’s The Coral can arguably be seen as inheritors of Arthur Lee and Love’s shamanic frazzledelia and that 1960s US West Coast frontier thinking (c.f. The Byrds, The Doors, Skip Spence) of endless psychic possibility and lysergic spiritual sanctity. A North West collective with a transglobal perspective.
Drummer Ian Skelly follows-up 2012’s debut solo entrée ‘Cut from a Star’ (allied to two albums as Serpent Power with band member Paul Molloy, the boy’s been active) with ‘Drifter’s Skyline’. A peripatetic (re)vision of past presence, passed presents and back-forward futures that nods to that post-psychedelic hangover where the sounds became more an invitation to come up and sit down as opposed to trip out and come down … heavy (Wooden Shjip-mate Ripley Johnson is producing similar work as Rose City Band).
‘Over the Moon’ channels Cat Stevens, an optimistic panoramic perspective on how ‘everything will work out fine … it’s only a matter of time’. The perception of time is a perennial concern throughout with Skelly (de)constructing its passages and erosions within the context of space and place. His voice veers between this of-this-world-weary and netherworld-wary, with one foot in all camps at any time.
The wistful, winsome and wanderlusting ‘Captain Caveman’ name checks past pop-cultural figures and references culminating in the titular Hanna Barbera club-wielder’s heroics: ‘Sha Lang, Sha Lang/ Oogum Boogum, Rolling Stones/Flying Burritos and Country Joe/ Watch Captain Caveman save the day’. Backed by an early 60s laconica vibe, it’s a slow traipse skip-in-ya-step trip down memory lane, a return trip to the pastures of old a sturdy source of psychic salvation. Nostalgia ‘is’ what it used to be.
12 string godheads The Byrds long acknowledged their debt to Merseybeat titans The Searchers and on ‘Jokerman’, Skelly effortlessly evokes both their gloriously harmonious melodies and perpetual (e)motion sonics (in turn he captures both Gene Clark’s aching-breaking art and Gram Parsons’ cosmic-countrified cries of vulnerability) where absolutely no one or nothing is going to ‘change the way I feel’.
Overall, this is just a lovely album, positivity oozes through it, from sunshine pop to funtime rock, strummed summations and stringed citations laced with outre-spective paeans that bring days of yore to the fore.