Album Reviews

Sophia – People Are Like Seasons

(The Flower Shop Recordings) UK release date: 16 February 2004

Sophia - People Are Like Seasons Anyone old enough, or plain fortunate enough, to remember The God Machine will be a tad excited at the prospect of this album by former frontman Robin Proper-Sheppard, under the name of Sophia. It’s been well over a decade since said band unleashed their debut album on a world that just wasn’t mature enough to handle it. Scenes From The Second Storey had enough barrages of guitars to turn the head of someone with an ear for the heavy metallic, but so much sensitivity too, with piano, cello and acoustic guitars creating great swathes of emotion.

Tragically, bassist Jimmy Fernandes almost literally, suddenly dropped dead of an undiagnosed brain tumour immediately after the recording of The God Machine’s 1994 eulogy, One Last Laugh In A Place Of Dying. Since then other bands have emerged, undoubtedly influenced by The God Machine (Mogwai et al.), while “emo”-tional rock has become a whole, nasty, cynical industry in itself.

Well, life’s injustices are never enough to suppress the creative lifeblood of the true musical pioneers. This is the fourth offering from Proper-Sheppard and his revolving cast of guest musicians (“The Sophia Collective”) but the first with a record label that can offer nationwide distribution. And believe me, it deserves to be heard up and down the land.

These days Proper-Sheppard is content to dwell in a less blustery musical landscape than The God Machine did. The shimmering, semi-acoustic melody of opener Oh My Love, for instance, could do some serious commercial damage if there was a radio station with enough foresight to pick up on it.

Following track Swept Back is slow and haunting with keys, an almost harpsichord-sounding guitar and Proper-Sheppard’s aching vocals that drip melancholia like the morning dew from a flower.

Fool is a piano-led, post-party wind-down of a track and leads into the album’s tour de force: the eight-minute Desert Song No 2. Featuring beautiful strings and piano, it sweeps you into its arms like a late-night blanket, before building into an ingenious last 90 seconds of guitar noise and feedback that counterpoint the piano that is still tinkling its melody over the top. It seems that the boy still knows how to rock…

As if to prove it, Darkness (Another Shade In Your Black) follows on with deep, dirty bass above a mechanical beat, squalling guitars, and a distant, dark chorus. It’s pretty gothic and bits of it are strangely reminiscent of early ’90s shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine and Curve. Only better, of course.

If A Change Is Gonna Come is rock mode again with a grooving guitar riff and distorted vocals, before we come out of the storm and into the quiet, green fields of Swore To Myself’s acoustic guitars and breezy melody.

Holidays Are Nice is a bit of a disappointment – as twee as its title suggests – but it’s mercifully short and leads into the grandiose, multi-instrumented melancholy of I Left You (“And you don’t say much… But what you do just tears my world apart”) and the mournful, acoustic finale of the suitably-named Another Trauma.

Listening to this record recalls a lyric by Marillion of all people, who once said: “Everybody knows we live in a world where they give bad names to beautiful things. Everybody knows that we live in a world where we don’t give beautiful things a second glance.” People Are Like Seasons is a beautiful album – let’s not make these mistakes where it’s concerned.

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More on Sophia
Sophia – As We Make Our Way (Unknown Harbours)
Sophia – People Are Like Seasons