Liam Frost & The Slowdown Family
Teach Me How the Spectres Dance
iam Frost offers an alternative to the current shower of tedious solo artist dross flying out of Tesco's and Sainsbury's across Britain. Only 22, scruffily suited, and with a dubious past in Mancunian punk bands, Prestwich native Frost and his band, The Slowdown Family, make the type of modern British folk-rock that involves acoustic guitars, trumpets, brushed drums (sometimes hit really hard), piano, harmonica, violin, and occasional near-shouting in a heavy Manchester drawl. It’s more Badly Drawn Boy than Love, meaning the brass touches are colliery rather than mariachi, but it’s still a world away from Blunt’s nauseous supermarket-rock.
Teach Me How the Spectres Dance is a slight, short, and occasionally parochial record, but is also possessed of enough charm, tunefulness, and a certain type of gruff, heart-on-sleeve honesty to repeatedly rise above its rather reductive reference points into something truly affecting and worthwhile. Frost’s accented, earnest delivery isn’t a million miles away from Damon Gough’s for instance, but only because neither is afraid of his colloquial heritage, and it doesn’t make his songs any less emotive or well-written.
“The City Is at Standstill” is the kind of album-opener that I find increasingly annoying these days, yet another incident of “let’s put the fast, badly-mixed one that’s unlike anything else on the record first in order to attract attention” that actually puts me off listening to the rest of the record at all. It’s not a bad song; it’s just a slightly busy mess which announces the album’s arrival rudely rather than gracefully, a shame when songs like “She Painted Pictures” and “Is This Love?” are crafted with an amount of balanced energy and sensitivity that belies their singer’s youth.
Essentially the album oscillates between a subdued, regretful emotional neediness and the type of raucous, celebratory fiddle-drums-and-trumpet hoedown that comes across incredibly well live. The two real standouts are the gentle, ruminative “Paperboats,” loaded with the kind of incidental imagery that peppers emotional response, and prior single “The Mourners of St Paul’s,” a rousing chorus that unfurls slowly into genuine redemption and elation. It’s the deft growth and mood control of “The Mourners…” that best reveals Frost’s talent—he may be young, but there are the seeds of a truly awesome songwriter at work here.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2006-09-22