You might not understand every word on Goodbye Falkenburg, the debut album from Race Horses, but that’s only because at least three of the songs are entirely, mostly, or partially sung in Welsh. Welsh or not, all the songs on the disc make great listening.
The first two tracks on the album are a good starting point for the kind of referential style on offer throughout the LP. Man In My Mind kicks off sounding very much like The Libertines before transcending them and ending up reining multi-part harmonies into a Beach Boys mash up. Cake begins with a cryptic reversed lyric followed by backwards guitar and a familiar vocal style which, when coupled, can only remind you of The Beatles. Despite these obvious reference points there is more of an individual style to follow with Pony and Isle Of Ewe, a kind of twangy nonsense nursery rhyme and a definite highlight.
“We felt bored with all modern music,” says singer Meilyr Jones. “We wanted to make our fifth album first, if you know what I mean.” These ambitious words aren’t exactly realised on the album, as the band tend to rely on their ability to sound like (very, very good) versions of other bands, but the confidence to utilise a vast range of recording techniques without resorting to computer trickery is evident and admirable and the band and producer Dave Wrench are to be commended for their experimentation. Irreverent space fillers like Discopig and Intergalactic Space Rebellion are no more (or less) than soundscapes; dubstep ska, keyboard surf music, and instrumental nothingness, existing only to show much fun these guys are having in the studio.
The Welsh language tracks are interspersed through the album, and though the meaning of the lyrics may be lost to the average listener, the musical craftsmanship they are layered upon creates solidly epic alternative pop. Wearing their influences on their sleeves for most of the album, these songs, particularly Cacen Mamgu and Glo Ac Oren, hint at a more developed sense of self and a unique style.
The penultimate track is Captain Penelope Smith, an extended sea shanty, complete with rousing chorus, apparently sung by a choir of trainee dentists.
This exciting new Welsh four piece’s debut smacks of just that, a great first album that shows promise of greater things to come. Having started so strongly out of the gate, mastering the styles of music that inspire and influence them, the real interest in Race Horses will come in hearing what they can do next.