For this is essentially a come-down album, the second from theBrighton-based outfit that has Simon Little and Tom Bidwellas founder members, and it seems to be able to expand according to musicaldemand. They alternate between vocal and instrumental textures, and therecord takes a thought provoking stance that gets under the skin in anextremely subtle way – and stays there.
This is mostly down to the lyrics. Advice, for example, goes for thesoul searching with the line; “What advice shall I give, I can’t tell youhow to live,” while the semi-spiritual Hold On exhorts us to do exactlythat. Most striking of all the vocal tracks is the funky State Of You, notexactly sympathetic in its declamations, saying: “Look at you and the stateyou’re in,” before concluding; “You had it, and you fucking lost it,” a realeye-opener when spoken unaccompanied at the end.
Hardkandy’s sensibilities of orchestration set them a notch above theaverage down tempo album. Triage begins with a wonderfully full yet distantbrass chord, opening up into a widescreen number whose lumbering bass hintsat Massive Attack before a Coltrane-style sax comes in to steal thethunder.
Brown Eyed Girl – no relation to the Van Morrison number -takes a harmonica to funk things up with surprising grace. The vocals, too,benefit from the production work and having some contrast among the singershelps too – Sean Clarke‘s honeyed tones on the opener, RussPorter‘s laddish yet soft-toned voice on State Of You, and a guest slotfor Terry Callier, which helps explain the probing vocals ofAdvice.
The handsome artwork features a slot with all the lyrics arranged in oneparagraph, indicating a concept to the album. “Jack was always the last toleave,” then; “one too many times Jack had consumed his advice”, and then,curiously in a closing song written six years ago; “happy beginnings andsecond chances”. It’s the album in a nutshell, not always happy or blissfulby any means. Indeed, weary and deadbeat would sum up the opening fewtracks, but there is a distinctly optimistic edge that successfully exertsitself by the end.