GREG LAMBERT runs the rule over We May Yet Stand A Chance, the new offering by Morecambe band The Heartbreaks.
The Smiths did it with Panic, The Jam with Town Called Malice, and The Sex Pistols with God Save the Queen.
All captured a moment, an undercurrent of feeling in British society.
Now in 2014, a band from Morecambe has produced its own time capsule, a musical comment on post-recession Britain.
The Heartbreaks’ new album We May Yet Stand A Chance is a beacon of clarity in a sea of mediocrity.
In a time when bottom-feeding drivel dominates the popular music charts, four lads from our little seaside town have revealed a work of depth and social conscience.
We May Yet Stand A Chance is a cracking pop album, no doubt, but the lyrics, theme and versatility are what set it apart.
Grandiose in parts, introspective in others, We May Yet Stand A Chance is a far more developed and cohesive beast than the group’s 2012 debut Funtimes.
Whilst Funtimes rarely deviated from a formula of good-time melodic pop, this explores everything from Motown soul to Latin guitar, even the Wild West.
At times, singer Matthew Whitehouse’s spectacular vocals make the hairs stand up on the back of the neck.
Through his lyrics, drummer and chief songwriter Joseph Kondras makes chillingly bold and accurate statements about changes in modern culture and our way of thinking.
The guitar wizardry of Ryan Wallace and bass of Chris ‘Deaks’ Deakin underpin a satisfyingly meaningful piece of work.
Here is my track by track review of We May Yet Stand A Chance by The Heartbreaks which comes with but one plea.
Support these four talented boys from Morecambe and buy it, to ensure that they DO stand a chance!
Paint the Town Beige
With this two-minute Ghost Town for the 21st Century, The Heartbreaks cut right to the chase. A bouncy, sinister, Dickensian romp where lead singer Matthew Whitehouse laments the death of the high street, how fat cat developers rampage through communities destroying anywhere with character or charm, all in the name of progress. Intriguing opener.
Rip-roaring soul dancefloor brilliance with falsetto backing vocals, triumphant chorus and more hooks than a weekend fishing trip. Songwriter Kondras sounds like he’s exploring religion here, revelling in absolution from the guilt he feels while imploring his lover to snap out of a rut-induced stupor. “You live like you’re waiting to die...do you think you feel the need to repent, darling?” A joyous anthem, the best tune on the album and arguably the most captivating work of the band’s career to date.
Hey Hey Lover
A jaunty pop tune with lyrics hinting at what’s to come. The religious tone continues as Whitehouse cries “Bless me father for I have sinned, I’m in too deep and I can’t swim.” He’s in the depths of despair because “the bastards are winning” but while there’s always some rotter trying to drag you down, the moral is to think positive even in the darkest of times.
Starting with simple acoustic strumming, the searing howl of a slide guitar opens the page on a sweeping story, expertly told by Matthew’s pain-wracked vocal. “No-one would die for anything around here!” he complains of a world where there are “no politics or passions or empathy for the human race” and where “you have fun but the sadness never really goes away”. There’s deep-rooted despair for how our society has evolved, a damning indictment of how we accept our lot, lost in an impersonal whirlpool where many of us communicate through digital screens, angry at nothing in particular and dead behind the eyes. Immense.
If they ever remade The High Chapparal, this should be the theme tune. Up tempo brass conjours images of cowboys as they gallop across the plains, defiance dripping from their chaps and stetsons. “I see your hope fading but I won’t let that take you away from me.” Epic.
Slower number with a title that sums up The Heartbreaks and indeed Morecambe. Like boarded-up empty shops near our stunning promenade; ugly and beauty, dark and light, despair and hope, bitter and sweet always walk hand in hand. Perfectly positioned on We May Yet Stand a Chance to take the pace down a notch, ensuring the album has tempo peaks and troughs unlike the full speed ahead exuberance of Funtimes. It also has a talky bit allowing Matt to find his inner Jarvis Cocker.
Fair Stood the Wind
Joe doesn’t have much luck in love, judging by his songwriting. “Doing the right thing is never my thing,” he confesses. This particular relationship was chugging along unremarkably (“Fair stood the wind”) but now “it’s blowing a gale”. Beautiful country and western-tinged ballad, sung with note-perfect understatedness by Whitehouse.
This is perhaps the only track that feels out of place on the album. A toe-tapping slice of 1950s rockabilly, pleasant enough, but somehow superfluous. Appropriate title, because it could have been left out.
This is Not Entertainment
Genius track which builds slowly with Spanish guitar, then twists into a scathing The Jam-style rant towards an un-named target of contempt. “The English language is a rotting carcass that you have laid to rest...you ride the crest of a tidal wave of utter emptiness...vulgarity stitched into your clothes...and when you walk onto my screen, and when you talk, despair crashes over me...” It could be a leading Tory, knowing the boys’ left-wing views. Or the cast of a vacuous reality TV show? In fact, it could be anyone whose pitiful shallowness and self-absorbed misanthropy has ripped up the traditions we hold dear. When Matt spits “This is not entertainment” it could just as easily be Johnny Rotten in 1977 screaming “No future!”
Reminiscent of Bar Italia on Pulp’s Different Class as an easy Mediterranean beat gives way to an emotive chorus. “I was down on my knees when I let Rome burn.” May require three or four listens to truly appreciate.
A poetic, cinematic and thought provoking conclusion. “We no longer live, we merely exist...I need to feel again.” Then Matthew sighs as the music fades. This is post-recession Britain and there is a numbness, a resignation, a shrug-your-shoulders I’m all right Jack attitude of selfishness. And The Heartbreaks aren’t impressed.
We May Yet Stand A Chance is out on June 2. The new single Absolved will be available to download from May 26.