In this record he raises himself above the parapet as an English equivalent to The National‘s Matt Berninger. With a voice often wracked with pain and heartbreak, his emotions are shot to pieces, and as we pick our way gingerly through the wreckage of Sun Gangs’ more reckless moments, Andrews lays himself bare.
It’s not a record of unremittingly bleak outlook, but if you listen closely to Sun Gangs you will be in need of a lie-down by the end. The emotional similarities with The National’s Alligator album are uncanny to begin with, mind. Both records begin with a stately first track, jangling guitars to the fore. “Sit down by the fireside,” Andrews urges his listener, before tellingly observing that “some day, a little rain is bound to fall”.
Tales of woe await the listener, but are punctuated by more optimistic moments. The Letter brings with it a heady rush of guitars and more than a passing similarity to Echo And The Bunnymen. Killed By The Boom picks up on this faster tempo, though quickly becomes desperate and unhinged, Andrews surveying the scene at a railway trackside with a grim inevitability.
Meanwhile the extraordinary Larkspur is the album’s emotional climax, and brings several parallels of Jim Morrison back to haunt us – The Veils’ This Is The End, if you like. For some eight and a half minutes Andrews brings disturbingly unhinged emotions to increasingly distorted and haphazard guitars. He gives the feeling of awaking all too quickly from a nightmare – only to discover that what you dreamt of is still happening in the wide awake world.
Thankfully Begin Again provides the urgently required antiseptic to all this, the wounds still stinging but in the first stages of recovery – a more optimistic way in which to finish the album. Scarecrow, too, presents a far-off beauty as Andrews duets with Sophia Burn – a combination The Veils would do well to explore in future records.
That’s assuming these tales of break up don’t apply directly to them, as the band’s relatively quick turnover suggests a restless creative spirit. However Sun Gangs harnesses that to communicate music of a raw emotional power, a record that should open more doors for the band than it closes.