Album Reviews

Flowers – Do What You Want To Do, It’s What You Should Do

(Fortuna POP!) UK release date: 8 September 2014

Flowers - Do What You Do C86 has had something of a revival in recent years, thanks in part to indie and tweepop events like Derbyshire festival Indietracks and London club night How Does It Feel To Be Loved? and, of course, record labels like Fortuna POP! which has become something of a hallmark when it comes to picking out the best the scene has to offer.

But in the main the bands riding the ’80s bandwagon have veered towards the sounds of those on the fringes of the genre; The Wedding Present and McCarthy – but not Flowers. Flowers are very, very C86. In fact, played alongside the likes of The Cocteau Twins and The Pastels, to the layman it’d be nigh on impossible to tell them apart. But does paying homage to their favourite genre mean they’re any good?

Well, yes, actually. Flowers are no simple pastiche; they’ve got the sound – all rutting synths and soft, fuzzy drums that frame the voice. And what a voice. Singer Rachel Kenedy, a blunt haired, huge jumper wearing, imp of a vocalist echoes Elizabeth Fraser and Harriet Wheeler, with her fragile yet confident, crystal clear, knife-sharp vocal.

The story goes that the London trio formed when guitarist Sam Ayres posted an advert looking for a singer to make music “like Madonna through a broken tape machine”. The newly formed band immediately moved in together and started playing gigs with similar haste. Their early output consisted of self-produced CDRs, the songs on which were apparently written and recorded in around half an hour each. On stage they’re a stunning proposition; impossibly young and lost in their own world. When Kenedy opens her mouth it’s spine tingling stuff – in full flow she can silence the room; you can hear a pin drop at the busiest of gigs.

That vibrant spontaneity isn’t lost with professional production – which, somewhat surprisingly comes courtesy of Bernard Butler, whose trademark sound is usually bolder and more complex. That’s not so say he’s not polished them; the angry, ripping guitars of some of their early shows are muted. They sound cleaner, the strings still grippingly urgent and raw, just a little more fresh.

As its title might suggest, the record’s dominant topic is the thrill and excitement of youth, and songs like Young (with the haunting line: “I would never tire of this…and if I do then bury me beside you”) and Forget The Fall; and the nervous, tentative admissions of love of Lonely, I Love You and Drag Me Down. All 14 tracks are carefully pitched, almost to the point of frustration. At times it can feel a little too gentle – you find yourself willing them to hit a bum note or for Kenedy’s voice to crack. But their minimal sound is their USP and ultimately the specialness of Do What You Want To Do It’s What You Should Do lies in the band’s ability to create a wave of emotion with barely there instrumentation.

It’s warm, delicate; a real feast for the ears. Discussing their songs’ simplicity and brevity, Kenedy said: “If there’s something that doesn’t need to be there, take it out!” – and their first effort shows what can be achieved if – just occasionally – you don’t overthink things.

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More on Flowers
London Gigs: 2-8 February 2015
Flowers – Do What You Want To Do, It’s What You Should Do
14 for ’14: 2. Flowers
London Gigs Diary: 5-11 August 2013