The charts these days, eh? You can’t move for the hordes of Pop Idol/Fame Academy wannabes foisting their earnest but fundamentally tiresome records on us, all trying to make a fast buck before their four month life cycle runs out. Where’s the originality, the invention, the history, the feeling ? Well, a good place to start is The Durutti Column’s new album, Someone Else’s Party. Music for the masses it ain’t, but if you like songs that are heartfelt, creative and sometimes inspired then this may just be worth a listen.
First formed in the late ’70s by Granada TV’s Tony Wilson, the driving force behind The Durutti Column over the years has been fellow Mancunian Vini Reilly. Part of the Factory Records scene with contemporaries such as Joy Division and A Certain Ratio, they never reached the stellar status enjoyed by the likes of New Order or Happy Mondays but nevertheless attracted a significant cult following, in line with Reilly’s maverick nature.
Reilly has earned a reputation as a creator of intimate guitar soundscapes, with vocals being used only sparingly. Someone Else’s Party lives up to this reputation, revolving as it does around his distinctive, magical guitar work. The dominant moods are that of melancholy and reflection – if this is someone else’s party then you wouldn’t really want to turn up at Reilly’s own shindig, such is the introspection that hangs over this record.
Yet it is dangerous to generalise about the album too much. Somewhere is beautiful, it seems as if Reilly’s guitar has a mainline to the heart here as delicious summery chords slide over a funky beat. No More Hurt is rocky and crunchy, the sound of Reilly picking himself up and dusting himself down, ready to take the world on. On occasions he even introduces trippy, hip hop like beats, nowhere better showcased than on Vigil with its warm strings and looped backing vocals. Several tracks really hit the heights, all of them intensely evocative.
But the problem with this collection is that it is consistently inconsistent. For nearly every triumph there is a disappointment. Somebody’s Party is unexciting, Reilly’s slurred, hazy vocals drowning in a pool of languid reflection, whilst Blue passes by timidly. Spasmic Fairy, fails to live up to its fairly wondrous title, being a prime candidate for the skip button. Maybe it is just that the pensive cloud that dominates Somebody Else’s Party means that sometimes the line will be crossed and the mood will become too dark or ponderous.
There is still much to admire though, chiefly Reilly’s guitar playing. It’s a work of art, shimmering, jagged chords that compensate well for his indifferent vocals. Warmth, emotion and originality are all recurring themes in many of the songs, which is a welcome relief in these days of chart blandness. It just shows that if you dig a little deeper, then there’s plenty of class to be found out there.