Review: Richard James – Pictures in the Morning
Published on May 1st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
…on which the former Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci guitarist/bassist reverts to pastoral folk-pop after the raucous, early Gorky’s-revisiting detour of 2010’s We Went Riding album…and does so consummately.
James’s combination of chiming acoustic fingerpicking and smooth, milky vocals still quite closely resemble former band mate Euros Childs (remember how seamlessly the sublime “Stood on Gold” fit onto How I Long to Feel That Summer in My Heart, Gorky’s aficionados?), and the lyrics here are for the most part sweet yet unremarkable, without the past history of eccentricity that made Childs’s sweet yet unremarkable latter-day Gorky’s lyrics somehow remarkable, if that makes sense.
However, after pleasant opening pair “All Gone” and “Baby Blue”, the latter of which flirts with a Paul Simon sort of wistfulness, ten-minute master stroke “Sun Ease Pain” immerses you in the kind of mysterious, bucolic and faintly unsettling soundscapes that a drop-D tuning so reliably unleashes. James though makes full use of it, weaving the kind of subtle yet spellbinding tension between light and dark that Candidate did so brilliantly on their The Wicker Man-inspired 2002 album Nuada.
“Say it Ain’t No Lie” continues this vibe by presenting itself as a clear, open plain in the midst of this magical forest, decorating what is probably the most Nick Drake-like song on the album with an oh-so-Gorky’s round of harmonised oooohhhs, while the driving psych-pop of “Magical Day” could have featured on We Went Riding, its dissonant, exploratory lead guitar and Kevin Ayers-meets-Dandy Warhols vocal turn sounding very assured in these gentle surroundings. In fact, it’s kind of like Richard James’s “Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes”.
“Yes My Love Died” brings things to a close with more of those wistful ooohhhs, some strings and a repeating vocal refrain of “yes my heart died, because I killed my love of you”; rest assured that Pictures in the Morning is resoundingly not the sound of a metaphorically dead heart. Lovely stuff once again.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!