For just one note from The Wave Pictures conjures up images of lovingly handmade C90 compilation cassettes, DIY fanzines and fey, pale boys with an interest in poetry. Take the best parts of The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian and Hefner, add a touch of Jonathan Richman and blend them all together – voila, you have The Wave Pictures.
Despite being around for over a decade, and releasing seemingly endless CD-Rs of home-recorded demos, the Loughborough trio only started to make inroads into the public consciousness with last year’s second ‘official’ album, Instant Coffee Baby. Given the prolific nature of the band, it’s no surprise to see this follow-up released less than a year later.
When you Leave It Behind follows a similar formula to its predecessor, being chocked full of funny, touching songs with some appealingly clever lyrics, topped off with lead singer David Tattersall’s plaintive vocals. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but those people who get the band’s worldview will find plenty of moments to fall in love with.
The title track kicks things off, a soft, slow shuffle of a song punctuated by some haunting brass. Tattersall’s voice may not be to everyone’s taste – indeed, at times here it becomes a bit too whiney and nasally for its own good – but he does sound oddly affecting.
It’s Tattersall’s lyrics that really stand out though. Canary Wharf follows in the footsteps of Sons And Daughters by aping a Johnny Cash rhythm, but the song itself tells of Tattersall “writing my name on a banana skin” because “there should always be a meal with my name on it”. It’s all strangely surreal, but oddly appealing.
They can be funny too, as on the Belle & Sebastian-esque Bye Bye Bubble Belly with its strummed acoustic guitars, handclaps and tales of “the woman in Whitechapel welfare centre – thank God she never speaks to me” before coming out with a lyrical gem like “I could be pleasingly shiny, not teasing her with shyness”.
The standout though is the beautiful I Thought Of You Again, a fragile ballad which mentions “the pissed up student girls who teased me with the sound of my own name” and attempts at press-ups in a hotel lobby (“the hotel lobby with me was not impressed”). The sparseness of the instrumentation makes Tattersall’s voice sound more poignant than ever.
It doesn’t always work so well – the nursery rhyme melody of Bumble Bee crosses the line from pleasingly twee to just plain irritating, and Softly You Softly Me is so whispy it’s forgotten to include any sort of tune. At 12 tracks too, it could probably do with some judicious editing as, after a while, it does all become rather samey.
Yet just when you think they may be running out of ideas, they can produce a yearning strum like Come On Daniel, or the lovely pay-off of Nothing Can Change This Love and you realise that, in a world where indie music is more pre-packaged and homogenised than ever, that there’s nobody making records quite like The Wave Pictures.