We Are Millionaires is the new album from a couple of Creation Records stalwarts, Pete Fij(alkowski) and Terry Bickers, the long awaited follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2014 debut, Broken Heart Surgery. Whilst these guys may not be household names to many, they perhaps should be.
Fij was the lead singer of 1990s outfit Adorable, a criminally overlooked band from the era that was about to see labelmates Oasis send Alan McGee’s venture into the stratosphere. The band’s debut Against Perfection was of particular note, not least due to its thumping centrepiece, Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Bickers, meanwhile, had been around a while longer with Guy Chadwick as guitarist in The House Of Love, another massively underrated – although comparatively successful – Creation group; for reference points, no home should be without the first two albums, at the very least.
The debut’s melancholic songs of heartbreak continue over into the new offering, although the pair’s Kickstarter campaign declared that, “It’s a progression from our previous album Broken Heart Surgery. Still a bit on the miserable side, but it has some patches of sunshine shining through the darkness”. The writing process saw Fij forming ideas and laying down demos with Bickers then adding his bits, and recording took place at Hove’s Church Road across 28 days spread over some considerable time from July 2015 to September 2016, where Fij’s knackered old lucky shoes and Daim cake obsession did battle with Bickers’ beloved bass for biggest bone of contention, Fij claiming the bass wielded disruptive, band-splitting powers of Yoko Ono proportions.
Excellent first single Love’s Going To Get You bears witness to some of those glimmers of sunshine mentioned previously, being contented resignation as love engulfs you. “Don’t try to run from it all, cos you can’t escape the inevitable,” sings Fij, whilst Bickers peppers the melancholy with just the right amount of electric guitar genius. Opener Let’s Get Lost Together treads a similar path musically – being no percussion, acoustic strumming and intricate electric guitaring – as the pair perform a touching bromantic duet which is, basically, the long overdue antidote to The Libertines’ raucous Can’t Stand Me Now.
Elsewhere, things get even more minimalist. Penned by Fij a decade ago for Eurovision, If The World Is All We Have is finger-clicking good, sounding very ‘60s. With a little imagination, it could be a distant cousin of the much-covered Baby Face. And therein lies the genius of We Are Millionaires – many tracks ever-so-slightly hint at forgotten melodies, but in such miniscule amounts that everything still sounds remarkably fresh. It’s a testimony to the abilities of Fij to regurgitate everything he has ever assimilated in new ways, perhaps, which is of course all anyone is ever doing, another example being Waking Up, where we could actually be listening to Babybird performing a slower-paced version of Oasis’ Half The World Away.
At over five minutes, the debut-namechecking title track is the longest cut and it’s also one of the best, being very minimalist again as acoustic strums meet more nerve-tingling electric guitaring while self-analysing lyrics tell of watching “downbeat movies” and buying lottery tickets, as well as admitting that if melancholy was currency then they’d be millionaires, a stance that neatly summarises the generally downbeat nature of the LP.
Mary Celeste is all about the mysterious unknown side of a woman, “you’re the unexplained in Hitchcock’s Birds”, Fij bemoans while declaring, “you ain’t half bad”, while the gorgeous, self-pitying pain of It’s Over tells of resignation at the end of a relationship and that “all I’ve got to do is get over you”, a heartfelt admission that will resonate with a million jilted lovers. I Love You then tells of a yearning to hear the words we all need occasionally, even if the relationship is crippled beyond repair, as the past is desperately clung on to with the tracks minimalism this time amplifying the overwhelming sensation of sadness.
It’s difficult to see too many glimmers of light on We Are Millionaires, but once again the duo have delivered a collection that is stunning in its simplicity. As closer Sometime Soon signs off the record by bucking the morose trend and hints at optimism – difficult to imagine considering Pessimist Pete’s general outlook on life, admittedly – we are told that “everything will be OK”; well, it will be if you buy this album because it is, without doubt, adorable.