For anyone who remembers Fanfarlo (so maybe a handful of individuals) will remember guitarist Mark West. He only stuck around for the recording of their first album, 2008’s Reservoir, before departing. He’s now back in the fold with an entirely different group altogether. The Lost Cavalry are a six-piece who focus on telling stories in the most twee and folky way possible.
On Three Cheers For The Undertaker, their debut album, there are definitely potential hits scattered around. But there’s always the feeling that something is missing. Snow City Radio, using words and phrases from all across the radio semantic field, is a good early example. There are hints at a foreboding meaning despite its chirpiness (“We’ve saved some food to last us through”) but on the whole it’s fairly unspectacular stuff, and comes across as more of a demo than a fully-fledged tune. However, The Elephant Of Castlebar Hill is much better – bustling and breezy with a plethora of instruments such as melodicas, xylophones, recorders and even a blast of trumpet.
It’s not all about being catchy though. A fair share of tracks aim for the five-minute barrier with varying degrees of success. The best of the slower numbers is King Of Kings. Following a rather mysterious opening, they allow the tension to build and build before rocking out (as much as folk outfits are able to) for the last couple of minutes. It also boasts some of the best contrasting vocal work on the LP. Last Stand, with layers that dip in and out, is also satisfactory. One minute it’s a ukulele that drives things onwards; the next, it’s something else entirely, and this is all the more effective thanks to its playful dynamics.
The Lost Cavalry sound like a band who are still figuring out how to make their tales stand out. There are songs that last far longer than they need to, and conversely some feel rather undeveloped. They’ve laid the groundwork, but there should be more flair in their aesthetic.
In summary, everything about Three Cheers For The Undertaker is fine. Their stories are not always captivating but they are functional and robust. Their arrangements are not particularly inventive but there’s just about enough variety in the mix. Their overall sound is not instantly going to grab your attention but it’s also inoffensive and easy enough to follow. The Lost Cavalry are capable of doing much, and there are plenty of promising and exciting moments. But Three Cheers For The Undertaker is ultimately rather under-powered.