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 ‘Bad Penny’ 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 Submarine.

To brand ‘Bad Penny’ as morose, though, would be to ignore the layers that characterise it – like fellow Yorkshireman Richard Hawley does, on the likes of ‘Confetti’ and ‘You Can’t Live On Love Alone’ 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 ‘Doing Time’ could drop nicely onto [a]Arctic Monkeys[/a]’ ‘Humbug’ 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 ‘Lockjaw’ 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: ‘Many Happy Returns’ 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.

Jamie Fullerton