Seattle, WA's Sun Spots make distorted punk with a pop tinge that's meant to get stuck in your head. On their new…
Helen Love – This Is My World
This Is My World - Alcopop! Records
Everybody has them, those slightly faded family photos from the 1970s that are simultaneously vivid yet just beyond the arm’s reach of memory. This Is My World, the tenth album from Swansea dayglo punk discoteers Helen Love is very like that album of photographs – charming slices of colourful documentary one step removed from today but dripping with nostalgia.
This Is My World is a lucky bag of pop culture and social references drawn from Helen‘s life. Despite its musical jauntiness, there’s a strong theme of regret and a wistfulness for times gone by, harking back to innocent times (Go-Kart, Our House, Billy Liar) and the close-knittedness of a working community (My Seaside Town, The Social Club). It is a symptom perhaps of these introspective times that songwriters are digging deeper into their personal reserves: this is certainly a starkly introspective album lyrically. In her lyrics, Helen is a kind of Anti Morrissey, chronicling the same tiresome and dreary small town life but where Moz‘s seaside town is the one they forgot to bomb, Helen can “…watch the seagulls kill old men, then fly away” (My Seaside Town). This grim hyperrealism is the difference; it’s the black humour of someone for whom there is no escape to LA or anywhere but here.
Musically, however, this is mostly bright and breezy, even cheesy, pop that careers from the horn-led jauntiness of My Seaside Town to the magnificent disco pomp of This Is My World, of which more anon. Fans of the spoof educational television programme Look Around You will enjoy the lo-fi synth noodlings in Billy Liar. In fact, there isn’t a track on this album that couldn’t be the title music for some kind of sitcom set any time from 1965 to now. But that’s the joy of Helen Love – it’s comfortably unsettling and shockingly familiar all at the same time.
It is in the closing pair of tracks that this album triumphs. Clearing Out Mum’s House could not be any more personal as it chronicles that dreadful process of dealing with what’s left behind that anyone who has lost a parent will know. If this song doesn’t move you, you have no soul. And yet … it’s a pulsing, bubbling synth bass that drives the song along, with jaunty horn breaks and orchestral stabs from the dawn of samplers that defies sadness and is at odds with the heartbreak laid out in the lyrics. The album closes with the triumphant title track which is, in every sense, the song you wish the Pet Shop Boys had recorded. Its huge, sweeping orchestral soundscape over a driving electro-disco rhythm evokes that magnificence and Helen‘s vocal has the Tennant phrasing to a tee. Accident or parody – it doesn’t matter. It’s magnificent. In a just universe, you’d be hearing it on your wireless sets every day.
A superb album that you can listen to or just hear. There is a difference. Sad but happy, jaunty but melancholic. A smorgasbord of emotion served up on a dayglo tablecloth. Highly, highly recommended. This Is My World by Helen Love is out now on Alcopop! Records & Bandcamp.