It was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later we would experience Climate Change: The Musical. Less likely was that it would come from such a source as Fred Deakin, once of Lemon Jelly. Inspired by Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, whose eerie parallels to the present day grow stronger with every passing moment, and The Who’s Quadrophenia, he has returned to the long playing format with a work of heady scope and ambition.
The message is clear. Earth is on the brink of extinction due to climate deterioration and a nuclear holocaust, and the Lasters are the final surviving family, battling with the evils of technology. Through 70 minutes Deakin tells their story, contributing vocals for the first time. The Lasters are Charlotte Hatherley, Abi Sinclair and Steffan Huw Davies, their very different voices bringing the story to life against colourful backdrops. Deakin’s music, typically descriptive, moves between watery chill out and full-blown psychedelia with a pleasing amount of funk, ensuring feet will definitely be tapping.
The stunning cover – Deakin’s of course – promises much. The music, however, is ultimately variable in quality. Much will depend on how you react to the ‘Marmite’ vocals, which often pierce the textures with an often uncomfortable sharpness. The words can always be clearly heard, not necessarily a given in the musical genre, but on headphones they are often too upfront.
This affects the delivery of the whole story. The consolation is that Deakin’s musical backdrops are everything you would expect from the co-author of chilled yet quirky ditties such as Nice Weather For Ducks or Space Walk. He still has his ear for a good hook, a funky bassline or bouts of psychedelia that provide the listener with pure escapism. Deakin’s soundscapes are typically lush and colourful, with a breezy piano solo on the starry-eyed Satellite Song, a really nice bit of funk behind Future Magic, and a raking bass on You Never Knew.
Hatherley’s vocal on Alone has an appealing, languid style, reminiscent of The Sundays, but the voices will make or break the album, as will some of the wackier lyrics, where the robotic male voices reach unfeasible depths. Because of this songs like Bringing It Back To You are both catchy but annoying at the same time. End Of The World is the most profound song here, Deakin providing a funky backdrop and psychedelic guitar solo, with the telling lyric “when we destroyed the planet you lived on, we were only trying to do our best”.
The Lasters leaves us with something of a quandary. Its message is clear, its musical content ambitious and strong at times – but it all comes back to the sharp timbres of the vocals and some of the plotlines. Deakin and his contributors should be applauded for their scope and ambition, but have made a work that jars once too often for this particular listener.