In the new tradition of Badly Drawn Boy and David Gray, ‘Fayetteville’ from Horsepower – released on their own label – sounds as if a few mates had got together in a garage to make their first recording.
Actually in the case of ‘Fayetteville’ it was the Hackney house, not the garage, of two of the band members – Sacha Galvagna (guitar, occasional vocals) and Ted Garcia (ditto) but you get the drift. Nothing wrong with that, and if you like Badly Drawn Boy you may well appreciate this ‘small town story’ of 10 songs.
Ian Bishop, providing most of the vocals, has a pleasant if unmemorable voice that well suits the laid-back lyrics. ‘There’s something so serene / about a girl that’s good at being mean’ he wails gently on ‘Low-life scum’.
Robin Blick adds some chirpy brass tootles and percussion is by Julian Hatfield (sounding particularly homemade on this track, but a little hollow throughout. He’s now left the band to be replaced by someone called simply Miguel, so maybe I wasn’t the only one to think that). Dave Allen (‘legendary producer, not the comedian’, the press release tells us helpfully) provides bass.
The overall impression of the album however is of simple vocals backed by little more than an acoustic guitar, and it’s sometimes difficult to work out what six band members were doing most of the time.
‘Retribution on a small scale’ is a tuneful song vaguely reminiscent of Mojave 3, with some atmospheric tremolo guitar work, while the trumpet comes back to good effect in ‘Electric arms and legs’. In the instrumental ‘Death of a man’ guitars (rather inexplicably) overlay playground noises and what sounds like radio interference. ‘You should never feel like me / because I believe in you’ is the refrain on ‘Diary of a lost girl’, yet another gentle ballad that is nice enough (that damning word) but doesn’t really seem to get very far.
‘Open heart surgery’ is so minimalist it’s hardly there, but I do like ‘Little Children’, starting out as a slightly demented and definitely spooky children’s rhyme and then metamorphosing into – you guessed it – a pleasant ballad.
If there’s one real criticism of this album it’s that it’s all a bit ‘so what’?. ‘Horsepower’s songs of melancholic beauty along with their emotive and confessional live performances have won them a loyal, and growing, core of ardent supporters’ says their blurb. I’m very happy for them but I’m not sure I’ll be joining them quite yet. Maybe I have to see them live and find out what they’ve got to confess first, because I haven’t worked it out from the album.