That there is an unmistakeable Cardiacs influence on Crayola Lectern’s debut album is hardly surprising. Appearing on The Fall And Rise Of are a number of names that will be instantly recognisable to anybody that has ever swum in the pond or followed the career of one of the most criminally under-appreciated bands in recent history. Former Cardiacs guitarists Jon Poole and Bic Hayes and drummer Baba Leith all feature in the ranks of Crayola Lectern. Perhaps most surprising is that pianist William D Drake doesn’t. Whilst Cardiacs was predominantly an outlet for the phenomenal musings of mainman Tim Smith, the band’s earlier work was arguably equally shaped by Drake’s idiosyncratic piano sound and style, and it’s his work that most readily springs to mind from the opening notes of lead track Ultrasonicmetaglide onwards.
Crayola Lectern’s saving grace however is that this is an album that treads its own path, and Cardiacs aside, The Fall And Rise Of is a quite perfect realisation of myriad influences that all seem to possess a distinct sense of Britishness (in the best possible sense). Chris Anderson (the man behind the Lectern) possesses a flair for mixing the apparently ridiculous with the heartbreaking without resorting to outright comedy or overwrought songwriting. Goldfish Song sees The Beatles‘ A Day In Life, reworked as a hopeful lament for a dead pets and a plea for parents to be there for their children. It avoids mawkish sentimentality perfectly and hits home with considerable emotional weight.
I Forgot My Big Idea showcases Anderson’s ability to mix styles effortlessly. It kicks off in a jaunty Bonzos manner, heads off into classical territory and then goes a bit Genesis, complete with mournful brass. Far reaching it most certainly is, overstretched it most certainly is not. Yet somehow the orchestration of all these musical styles never jars. The instrumental Wholetoner retains a Genesis feel whilst Slow Down bears some similarities to Tony Banks‘ A Curious Feeling specifically but manages to widen the palette considerably with a vocal that could come straight from a Super Furry Animals songbook. Trip In ‘D’ dispatches the softer elements of Crayola Lectern’s repertoire and charges off into droning space rock territory. Initially it’s a bit of a shock to the system, but a little cosmic aggression switches gears and lifts the album at the midpoint.
Elsewhere there are hints of Pink Floyd, Blur, Peter Skellern, Lambchop and countless others. Yet the more that the influences become apparent, the less they seem to matter. More important are the snapshots of life that can be found in the musical nuances that pepper the album. Swirls of end of the pier Würlitzer, dainty piano that conjures up images of beginner’s ballet lessons, colliery brass, musical theatre, driving rock, and classical recitals; it’s all gathered around the old Joanna having a knees up, celebrating success and wistfully mourning the fallen. The Fall And Rise Of crams it all in there and seeks to remind us that life is a fleeting patchwork of sounds, sights and experiences. This is hinted at during the haunting ballad of A Cortical Affair, which addresses the loss of memory. Whilst some things fade, others stay deep in the mind, and this album frequently feels like the sonic equivalent of life flashing before the eyes.