Whatever happened to Manchester? It was once home to some of the greatest capers ever conceived in modern Blighty. Sprinkled with tales of legendary loss-making night clubs and record labels, eating yerself fitter and more pills, thrills and bellyaches than you could shake a tambourine at.
Though Doncaster-born, Patrick Briscoe has been Manchester resident for over 20 years, circling the edge of its music scene and now slowly negotiating some centre space for himself. But if plastic face still carnt smile, it might be because he’s cocked a tinnitus-ringing ear to Mr. Briscoe’s Colours Will Fly
Since the days when four of its finest eyebrows ruled Knebworth, the rainy city’s party-pants remain unsoiled. Hard to believe that the same city that birthed the smirks of Pete Shelley, Mark E Smith and Stephen Patrick Morrissey has now been responsible for the broody glumness of assorted Doves, Elbows and the aforementioned Mr. Briscoe.
But if Briscoe shares the furrowed foreheads of his contemporaries, that’s where the comparison ends. Save for an occasional violin, Patrick Briscoe spends most of Colours Will Fly alone with his guitar, pondering the changing of the seasons, ‘lines of terraced houses’ and marking time with his ‘picking’ style.
As influences, Briscoe lists a few unknowns such as Amadeus Mozart and Miles Davis. But audibly, only one strums a calloused thumb through the strings of Briscoe’s art. Indeed, calling Colours Will Fly ‘Drakesque’ (and some have done) would be a bit like calling Shakey‘s This Ole House Elvis-esque.
Curiously though, no matter how unimaginable Colours Will Fly would be if Nick Drake had never braved a recording studio, this record is not totally flattened by the burden of comparison.
Briscoe’s autumnal voice has the grain of experience, and sets itself apart from Drake’s own precise, low-tones. And many will find Briscoe’s introverted style becalming. In Briscoe’s hands, the repetitive tempo has the balm-like effect of a red cloud sundown.
Indeed, for those looking for a pit-stop from the ‘hard road to travel’ (Raining Stones) the 14-song prescription of Colours Will Fly might just be the remedy.
Throughout, a Pink Moon-ish sense of foreboding pervades. But where Drake laid traps to get the hellhound off his trail, one feels that Briscoe’s dilemma is a little more prosaic. Perhaps a series of missed opportunities inform the stark claims of ‘there really is no looking back’ and ‘life is going fast’ of Another Country.
A yearning is ever-present. Briscoe reflects that ‘maybe my luck will finally change’ on Scars And Mountains and dreams that ‘someday colours will fly’. Not the most select of metaphors, true, but Briscoe isn’t out to reinvent the wheel.
On Just Drifting, he declares that he is ‘tired of listening to the radio’, and one begins to suspect that deep down, Colours Will Fly’s secret theme is really nothing more than that old favourite, fings ain’t wot they used to be.
On Portrait Of England, Briscoe renders a scene of scarcely believable pastoralism. The ‘life we used to know’ consists of such ill-fitting bedfellows as ‘farms and fields’ and ‘kids from the council estates’.
Sure, modern England may be full of Sainsbury’s Locals, Sky dishes, West Country second homes and foot and mouth disease but we’ve also said good-bye to colonialism, persecuting homosexuals, backstreet abortions and Jim Davidson (more or less), so things aren’t all bad.
Manchester, eh? So much to answer fer.