As much as you may tire of the music press grouping various bands into spurious scenes, the ‘Thamesbeat’ movement is one well worth taking notice of. Already we’ve had the none more eccentric Mystery Jets, and Wimbledon’s Jamie T is one of this year’s hottest talents.
Larrikin Love are another ‘Thamesbeat’ band of whom great things are promised. Fronted by the undeniably odd and very charismatic Edward Larrikin, their singles and energetic live shows have meant that The Freedom Spark is already one of the year’s most anticipated releases.
They’ve been lazily named as ‘the new Libertines‘ in some quarters due to Larrikin’s sometime vocal similarity to Pete Doherty, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While Pete’n’Carl painted an idealised, romantic picture of Albion, there’s no such optimistic mythology here. For Larrikin Love aren’t big fans of their home country, to put it mildly.
This is most explicitly announced in Downing Street Kindling, in which Larrikin threatens to tear down 10 Downing Street’s black door and set fire to it while declaring that “England has nothing more to offer me”. Lines like “everything that I adore came well before 1984” are obviously reminiscent of Morrissey, and musically it’s an intriguing hotch-potch of indie and folk with an additional undercurrent of ska.
Dissatisfaction with England is also explored in the brilliant Meet Me By The Getaway Car – the song’s reggae beat may sound sunny, but the lyrics tell of a yearning to live abroad and “wear velvet, walk the streets, smoke Gauloises, laugh at the people you meet”. There’s an epic quality to the track which suggest that Larrikin Love are far more than just another indie-guitar band.
As well as the intoxicating musical ingredients on display, it’s Edward Larrikin’s lyrics that really impress – debut single Six Queens tells the sad tale of an unhappy transvestite hooker, while Happy As Annie wraps a dark story about stumbling on the murdered body of a raped schoolgirl inside a banjo-led, furiously addictive tune. It’s so upbeat that you don’t actually realise until about the third or fourth listen exactly how gruesome it is.
The album is divided into three parts, Hate, Fairytale and Freedom, and the more instantly memorable songs are packed into the opening Hate section. Fairytale consists solely of the dreamy Fall At The Feet Of Rae, while Freedom has the more happier, optimistic songs. At first listen, Freedom seems the most disappointing section, but after a few plays it begins to reveal its charms more fully, whether it be the sweet Well Love Does Furnish A Life (featuring Patrick Wolf on ethereal backing vocals), or the frantic, Pogues-like, ragged glory of the closing A Burning Coast.
Long term fans may be disappointed at the omission of live favourites such as Silver or John O’Ryans Polka Dot Skirt, but the concise running time of 35 minutes means that the album never overstays its welcome, and once it’s over, you want to go straight back to the start again – surely the mark of an outstanding record.
So, with a not a duff track here (apart from maybe the spurious ‘intro’ track of Spark), The Freedom Spark comfirms Larrikin Love’s position as one of the country’s most exciting new bands. Come the end of the year, don’t be surprised if this is up there on many of those ‘album of the year’ shortlists.