The darkest hours are just before dawn. When you're languishing in the deepest trough of despond, you never know quite how near to salvation you really are...

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Spanish Dance Troupe

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Spanish Dance Troupe

The darkest hours are just before dawn. When you’re languishing in the deepest trough of despond, you never know quite how near to salvation you really are.

Hence, ‘Spanish Dance Troupe’ – [a]Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci[/a] album number six, wherein our heroes return from their season in the abyss with their best work yet. Having been summarily dropped by Mercury two weeks after the release of the subdued ‘Gorky 5’, they were left to complete a British tour under their own steam before retreating, bruised and beaten, to the wilds of Anglesey to record their next album.

The result of their efforts stands as testimony to a pop life after metaphorical death. Sure enough, death crops up all over ‘Spanish Dance Troupe’ from the opening bereavement hymn, ‘Hallway’, through the barbed ‘Desolation Blues’ and the eerie ‘Murder Ballad’, but it’s an innocuous presence. Like the true Wild West (erm, Welsh) outlaws they have become, the Grim Reaper holds no fear for [a]Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci[/a], because, with the whole Mercury debacle, they’ve been through that palaver already.

What’s important is life. It may have a wistful air about it, but like the Eels‘ masterful ‘Electro-Shock Blues’, ‘Spanish Dance Troupe’ is about serene survival rather than picking over old scars. A masterpiece of understatement, it’s a record of little moments of euphoria set against a backdrop of turmoil, but you’re never in any doubt that the shafts of light are the most important bits, like the Nick Drake-ish ‘Christmas Eve’ and the lovingly REO Speedwagon-esque country ballad ‘Faraway Eyes’.

Maybe the centrepiece of all of this is the album’s title track which, like so many of their finest moments from ‘Lucy’s Hamper’, through ‘Diamond Dew’ and ‘Sweet Johnny’, reads like a nonsensical nursery rhyme but says more about their trials and torments than anything else. “My conclusion this summer”, sings Euros Childs, “was there was too much rain/So I ran off on Thursday/With a dance troupe from Spain”. Gorky‘s found themselves in an all too real ridiculous situation and their response has been to disappear into an inner world more fulfilling than any kind of reality.

That’s their logic, then. The only response to madness is more madness. It’s a conclusion that will see them in a sanatorium before long, but for now the sun of a new dawn is shining on them brighter and more brilliantly than ever before.