“It takes what was there and improves on it but, at the same time, it doesn’t lose any of what made you fall in love with the band in the first place.”
I was first introduced to Jim Lockey & The Solemn sun a few years back at Lexapalooza, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Their, self proclaimed, “country without the ‘O'” tunes have been a constant for me since that fateful day, so I was pretty excited to finally get my hands on the lads’ latest effort. And I was right to be excited, because Death is absolutely awesome (wow, that was a weird sentence to write), albeit a bit of a departure from what they’ve done before.
Granted, it starts off pretty similar, the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar and Jim’s soothing vocals opening up the album on ‘England’s Dead’. This softness last’s about a minute before being pushed aside by the wail of an electric guitar and the crash of cymbals, a force that continues throughout. It’s a more powerful record that’s for sure, with the boys edging towards quite a punk sound on occasion. Shit, they’ve even got a twenty-second song in ‘Sail Me Down The River’ – it doesn’t get much more punk than that!
This new found power has made The Solemn Sun even more integral when it comes to how this record sounds. I’m not saying they didn’t play a key role on Atlases, but those songs always felt lead by Jim’s acoustic and that the band were there just to provide subtle backing. On Death the band is vital. Without the band (in one form or another) some of these songs just wouldn’t be the same. In a way it reminds me of, label mate, Frank Turner’s Poetry Of The Deed: There are still tracks like those found on the last record – ‘Our Fathers’ stands out as the perfect example of Jim really carrying a song (and doing it well, I might add) – but for the most part, the band is really an integral part of the listening experience. That comes as no surprise, when you find out who was sat behind the desk.
Producer extraordinaire, Pete Miles really knows how to bring the best out of an already great band. The man has produced some of the best records in ‘alternative’ music (to use a catch all term) in recent years – including, my favourite record of last year, Great Cynics’ Don’t Need Much and, the absolutely amazing, Born To Ruin by Crazy Arm – so having him work with guys as talented as this feels like a match made in musical heaven. It’s really paid off too as, not only does it sound powerful, it sounds slick too. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get a little rough in spots, but it’s easy to give those a pass when the record is so good overall.
Death does everything a good second album should. It takes what was there and improves on it but, at the same time, it doesn’t lose any of what made you fall in love with the band in the first place. It still feels like a folk record, albeit one that comes out and hits you in the face, the lyrics are still poignant and the songs are as good as, if not better than, those that came before.
Trust me, you can expect big things from these guys in the future.