It’s been a while since we heard from David Holmes, last seen in a pop capacity touring with his highly successful Free Association outfit in 2003. Yet it seems all the while along he has been immersed in a side project begun in 1996, the fruits of which have finally been harvested.
This is likely to be his most personal album, inspired as it is by the death of his mother in 1996, then his father years later, as well as the starting of Holmes’s own family. As a direct result there is an elegiac air throughout the record, which runs effectively as a set of album photographs in music. Heightening the personal attachment, Holmes also features as a vocalist, alongside Suicide singer Martin Rev.
Rev it is who fronts the single I Heard Wonders, whose dreamy euphoria masks its rather radio-friendly lyrics that could have come straight from a La’s single. Without full knowledge of the perspective of their composition, Holmes’ words could sound like an improbably contrived bid for radio airplay. As it is they are revealed to be pertinent and highly emotional, when used.
For The Holy Pictures is a series of instrumental and vocal tracks side by side that seem to be taking a fond look back to the 1980s, and in particular the period of The Jesus And Mary Chain and early Primal Scream. Love Reign Over Me sounds like a sotto voce update of Movin’ On Up, as Holmes sings “I close my eyes so I can be, with your love – rain down on me”.
In some hands this approach to an album could be horribly self indulgent, but Holmes stops well short of that – and gives us instead a sonic treat that takes his early pop loves and works in the discipline he has clearly learnt from his work for film and television. The instrumentals especially bear this out, such as the glockenspiel added to the top of the mix for Story Of The Ink, and the dazzling, dizzying textures applied to Melanie. Theme/I.M.C. is a powerful instrumental, its textures again redolent of Jesus And Mary Chain but when placed in a widescreen environment, all the more satisfying.
Derivative it may be, but The Holy Pictures has more than enough going on to rise well above accusations of tribute material. Add in the highly personal genesis of its composition, easily audible in both lyrics and melodies, and the listener’s satisfaction is complete.