Listen carefully, and under the shaken beer-can maracas, the hairy stomp and, yes, the banjo, you can just hear the benefit of the doubt.
While there are those who maintain that banjos and brilliance are not mutually exclusive, they can usually be identified by their antic dance along the tightrope between bravery and foolishness. Not that [a]Candidate[/a], London’s take on that authentic Southport blues sound, display much in the way of movement – singer Joel Morris restricts himself to a little light shuffling, perhaps weighed down by his heavy black spectacles and deep brown voice, while the rest of the band are dancing only in their heads – but they’re clearly blessed with a noble impulse to make life difficult for themselves. For when [a]Candidate[/a] are good, they’re very, very good. And when they’re bad, God, they sound like Gomez.
Yet as Doves have blasted a new route through all that epic Mancunian bluster to find an unspoilt emotional landscape, it’s just possible [a]Candidate[/a] could pull the same trick with that malarial swamp sound, fanning away the fetid fly-blown fug of self-importance and unintentional comedy to find a breath of fresh air.
Starting with ‘The Great Starving American Band’ is an instant dose of quinine, a silvered slab of US mystique that’s as poignantly iconic as Neil Young standing in a field of corn. The chorus of ‘Play Something’ is equally likely to trigger that internal video of metaphorical journeys on the open road, the chorus of, “Why don’t you play something/Something we all can sing?” putting them down on the stadium waiting list at a sensibly early age.
Problems raise their bearded heads when, in true British holidaymaker style, they insist on taking Wellingtons and umbrella to the big sky country. ‘Swim Home’ rocks like it’s towing a caravan behind it, not so much swamp as overflowing sink, and no amount of old-man gravitas can save ‘Somerset’ from the banjo menace. They do, however, manage to carry off a ‘freakout’ with ‘Bird Machine’ and even if you imagine the closest Joel‘s come to “the ugly underside” might be the untidiness under his bed, it still bristles with impressive disgust and relentless Deep-South logic.
Listen carefully, and under the shaken beer-can maracas, the hairy stomp and, yes, the banjo, you can just hear the benefit of the doubt. It sounds pretty good.