After just two gigs at London’s Bunjies, a former haunt of Bowieand Dylan, Youell and her co-songwriter Richard Murray found themselvesplaying to ten-million residents of Guangzou, China, on the Pearl Riverradio station, before returning home to spearhead the musical promo for Sky TV’sRyder Cup golf coverage, then embarking on a sterling run in a nationalnewspaper “Star of Tomorrow” competition.
Heady stuff, but thankfully there’s as little euphoria here as in MrsClaypool’s undergarments. As a songwriter Viv Youell has many virtues, but it’sa certain enigmatic otherness that makes her more worthy a proposition thanany award ceremony contestant. Her songwriting is full of emotional quirks andpoetic innovations, and from the opening acoustic guitar strains of Smile,Firelogic fires unceasingly towards the stars.
In the critic’s handbook, “epic” can be a dubious term andreference-points are a man’s best friend, but in both cases here conventions are defied.Youell excels in trapping emotional intensity and pouring it out in shimmering,labyrinthine acoustic guitar numbers, in doing so naturally pushing theborders of taste and tempting one to confess all manner of sins.
Many people were big fans of Belinda Carlisle, and Youell’s voice,all fervent emotion and piquant tremolo, evokes Carlisle in what would havebeen her ideal context, minus the balladry-by-numbers. Meanwhile, an electricguitar solo in Love in the Afternoon momentarily sounds like Claptonhas got himself a credit, before it shoots off on timely, glimmering poptangents.
Firelogic teems with songwriting innovations expressed in their humblestforms, and the spoken-word poem at the end of Pebbles along with thefairytale poignancy of Catherine comes from the deepest reaches of Youell’s soul, butfurther zeniths are reached when the songs are left to open out all the waylike petals in the sun.
Hearts and Arrows and Love in the Afternoon are soundtracks to the bestsummers you ever had, working their ways off gentle acoustic riffs intounderplayed refrains and coming together like the greatest pop should, effortlessand romantic, and Still Waters, with its sparkling, reflective shimmer, twistsand wraps itself around you with the kind of warmth that defines Youell assomething special.
It’s been a vintage year for new female alt folk troubadours, and we cansafely count Firelogic up there with Kat Flint’s The Secret Boys Club EP and Catherine Feeny’s Hurricane Glass. It came around the scenicroute, but got here just in time.