If one was to listen to advertising slogans from a certain Irish stout then good things come to those who wait. Strangely, this hasn’t always been the case in music. One need only look at Yes, Please by Happy Mondays, Second Coming by Stone Roses or (more recently) Chinese Democracy, courtesy of Guns & Roses.
Enter Manchester’s Help Stamp Out Loneliness. Formed out of the ashes of fanzine favourites Language Of Flowers, there has been a sense of anticipation for their début album on the back of a pair of well-received stand-alone singles (Torvill and Dean and Pacific Trash Vortex), and an impressive set at the 2009 edition of Indietracks. Now, finally, the time has come to see if the wait’s been worth it.
Opener Cottonopolis + Promises sets the tone immediately. Melodies that are infectious and instant but never saccharine sweet, lyrics that are at once deft and sprinkled with cultural references (how many songs can claim to have implored their subject to be John Cooper-Clarke to the other entity’s Nico?) and near flawless. Musical influences come to the fore with the following track, Angelyne, its country-tinged tempo recalling Canada by Sarah Records stalwarts Field Mice.
Throughout there’s a real sense that the gestation period of the album has allowed the songs to fully develop. Aside from the opening duo, the anthemic chorus to Record Shop, propulsive The Ghost With A Hammer In His Hand and atmospheric Me, Sola and C demonstrate a genuine songwriting flair.
It also needs to be said that while the music is pop, the lyrics aren’t the too-twee-for-some affair that the band name might suggest. Record Shop, The Ghost With A Hammer In His Hand and Me, Sola and C all have an underlying sense of menace, while most other songs display realism at the very least. The exception is album closer Split Infinitives. Building from a simple keyboard line to a seven minute rush of euphoria, only the heartless won’t be sold by the arrival of it’s refrain of “Went out for the weekend, it lasted forever. / Got high with our friends, it’s officially summer”.
What we have then is an album which, while sonically miles away from the similarly melodic Pains Of Being Pure At Heart‘s Belong, is similarly and relentlessly consistent. While almost 50% longer than the Pains’ latest effort not a note of it ever feels wasted. The overall feeling of the album is one of acknowledging past influence through nods to atmospheric ’80s pop, while never wallowing in it and in adding intelligent lyrics and genuine songcraft Help Stamp Out Loneliness appear to have realised their potential and produced a winning formula. Barring the possible release of a second Allo, Darlin’ record before the year’s end, this might just be the record to stand alongside Belong as indiepop record of 2011.