Album Review: Spectrals – ‘Bad Penny’

Album Review: Spectrals - 'Bad Penny'


Yet another Yorkshireman proves adept at writing songs about sorrow that are strangely uplifting

Twenty-one is rather a young age at which to write an album about heartbreak – but if the results are as promising as the debut full-length by Yorkshireman Louis Jones, aka [a]Spectrals[/a], then the more life-crushing decimations of young-blossomed relationships the better, we say.

It all turned out OK in the end, though, we hear – Louis is apparently now with the girl that all the songs on ‘[b]Bad Penny[/b]’ are written about, back when his heart was shakier. The fallout that remains, though, is an album full of the kind of glisteningly downbeat jaunts that feels familiar from [a]Alex Turner[/a]’s Shadow Puppetry and, in particular, the scintillatingly heart-wrenching solo soundtrack he released earlier this year for [b]Submarine[/b].

To brand ‘[b]Bad Penny[/b]’ as morose, though, would be to ignore the layers that characterise it – like fellow Yorkshireman Richard Hawley does, on the likes of ‘[b]Confetti[/b]’ and ‘[b]You Can’t Live On Love Alone[/b]’ Louis expertly sets his jazzy guitar lines to that perfect mid-point between shimmering optimism and gut-hurting sadness. It gives the album a lapel-grabbing drive that most heartbreak records lack. And at the risk of labouring Turner comparisons, the chugging ‘[b]Doing Time[/b]’ could drop nicely onto [a]Arctic Monkeys[/a]’ ‘[b]Humbug[/b]’ and improve it considerably. Equally pleasingly, the album is a little bit funny, rather than just a lot mopey – when relaying unrequited love on the gorgeous lilt of ‘[b]Lockjaw[/b]’ Louis sings: “We can’t kiss as you’ve got lockjaw, though I can’t be sure…” Which is the kind of wry rhyme you could imagine could come from the lyric book of a certain Alex Turn… OK, sorry, you get the point.

But take that comparison as a mark of pedigree rather than of any lack of individuality – this is a hugely personable album full of gawky heartbreak and Yorkshire sad-glam that makes you feel like you know Louis as well as your oldest school chum.

A decidedly British album, yes, but not one confined to its borders: ‘[b]Many Happy Returns[/b]’ boasts Spector-rattle drums that send shivers snaking down the spine, and Louis’ deft croon throughout gives credence to his declaration last year that he was “dead into” [a]Scott Walker[/a]. Indeed, you wonder what ambitions quiet Louis is hiding under his hood – and you also wonder how big things could get if you had a whip round for a string section to see if things could really lift the ceiling off.

For now, we’ll lift our caps and welcome another intelligent, funny, soul-baring songwriter to the fold, quietly hoping that, come album two, he isn’t feeling too happy in love.

[i]Jamie Fullerton[/i]


Director: Richard Formby
Record label: Wichita
Release date: 17 Oct, 2011