I’ve tried to be less exuberant on this blog recently. I mean, it hasn’t worked, but the fact is I’ve tried. So the new Meursault album provides me with a problem – I’ve listened to it through, excluded everything else in my life other than the sounds of the album, almost looking for problems. You can probably see where this is going. I’m convinced that Meursault are the best successors to Radiohead for the throne of the changeable-yet-unified band sound (by the way, comparing a band to Radiohead is about as exuberant as it gets for me).
That probably needs some explaining. I’ve always believed, somewhat biased-ly, that Radiohead are the only band I’ve ever heard who can completely alter their sound from album to album and yet still have a ‘Radiohead sound’. Just listen to The Bends, then OK Computer, then Kid A (no, really, do it now, it’ll be fun). There’s no doubting those are all the work of one band, and yet they have a completely different aesthetic from one another. It’s incredible. I never thought another band would be able to pull that off in my ears. Well, over the course of two albums and one EP, Meursault are proving me wrong.
Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues was a big, fizzing ball of energy, intercut with songs of such grace and simplicity they were breathtaking – there hasn’t been as surprising a twosome of tracks as ‘A Few Kind Words’ (bleeping explosion of merriment) and ‘A Small Stretch of Land’ (so beautiful you can’t help but close your eyes to listen to it) in a very long time. On the other hand, the Nothing Broke EP dispensed with the electronics and let loose four tracks that showed off their folk chops and included another devastating twosome, William Henry Miller Parts One and Two, a handclap ‘n’ banjo-heavy borderline pop tune and a howling lament respectively (and about a hermaphrodite Scottish politician no less).
This all brings us nicely around to their newest effort, All Creatures Will Make Merry. On the surface, it bears an auditory resemblance to the first album, at least in its ebb and flow. The band clearly know how to toy with their listeners’ expectations, and those moments of abrupt changes in tone come just as wonderfully as before. But with a real listen, the new tricks and complexities reveal themselves with aplomb. The band have delved back into the electric instruments cupboard, but come back with some equipment a lot more serious than what they’ve showed us before. When this album gets loud, it does so in a deep, almost scary way. ‘What You Don’t Have’ sounds like a tornado (complete with a tranquil eye of the storm) set to the drums of a marching band from Hell itself, whilst ‘New Ruin’ could be a Celtic war march, all trepidation, mandolins and incredibly powerful beats. But as the album gets quieter, it hooks you just the same. ‘One Day This Will All Be Fields’ is produced in, for want of a better word, a really, really cool way. Starting as a simple uke and vocals track recorded on what sounds like a hissing tape recorder, when it reaches the chorus a second set of clear, echoing vocals are overlayed, creating the wonderful effect of the song transcending its own recording.
That’s not to say it’s all about the music. Neil Pennycook’s vocals are as arresting as they’ve ever been, carrying you along before they soar upwards in a rich, tuneful howl. And I haven’t even talked about the lyrics! Starting a song with a line like ‘So long ago/That I’m not even sure/If the eyes that meet me in my sleep/Are yours at all’ will never fail to make me swoon with a difficult combination of happiness and envy. What I’m trying to get across to you is this: All Creatures Will Make Merry is my favourite album of this year so far. It’s amazing. It lives up to my Radiohead ideal by coming up with completely new ideas but never comprimising on that aspect that makes Meursault what it is (whatever that might be). You should buy this album right now, and I can give you one very good reason for that – in finishing this review, I know I haven’t even covered half of what I love about this album. I think Meursault have confirmed to me a startling fact – they’re one of my favourite bands.
But I promise I won’t be this exuberant again any time soon. Maybe.