“Sleep drives me, rain drives me on”, sings Johnny Daukes, the man that is All Our Good Friends. It’s a good month for him to be alive, then, for January’s rains and long nights will have been feeding him all the stimulation he needs.
He’s not a miserablist though, and the lazy comparisons to Radiohead made in that manner are wide of the mark, the opening of Down excluded. No, sympathisers will detect a touch of euphoria dressing this record around the edges, turning the potentially grey skies blue.
What really charms about this record is its refusal to do anything in a hurry. Daukes may be the man behind the operation but he secures some gorgeous harmonies in songs like To Catch The Stars, which ambles purposefully, if that’s allowed. Far more urgent, but in no way quicker, is the steady and inexorable build-up of A Good Friend Of Mine, beginning as a single cell but employing some pretty impressive fission to get through to the big chorus, electric guitars and all.
It’s when Daukes applies the electricity that you know he’s reached the upper reaches of his emotion, as it’s not something always audible in his vocal delivery. That’s not to say the album’s cold, but some of his lines are sung with a certain amount of numbness. More meaning is attached to Down, a lovelorn declaration where he sings “I can’t believe that you won’t see me”. It’s a powerful song, just Daukes, a softly arpeggiated guitar line and twinkling atmospherics in the middle distance, and sounds like it’s borne from personal experience.
The album’s slow tread occasionally flirts with Simon and Garfunkel and has a brush or two with a steel guitar. In its best moments it has a majestic quality, particularly when the sighing harmonies emerge.
Look closer at the lyrics, too, and more rewards are to be found. In an unexpectedly humorous moment Radio reveals that “in the mortuary, you made a pass at me”. Meanwhile Happiness examines Daukes’ response to feeling good. Early on he sings optimistically, “if happiness is all that it’s been cracked up to be, then stick it in an envelope and send it off to me”. Later the bubble has burst, and “if happiness is all that it’s been cracked up to be then tie it to a ten ton weight and drop it in the sea”.
Where Daukes succeeds is in the double meaning attached to these sentiments, the music accompanying them lightly resigned rather than outwardly depressing. And while the album might make for a weary heart if you catch it in the wrong mood, ultimately it’s a brightly shining light on the horizon, a focal point to gaze on in the night time.