Withered Hand - New Gods
- Mark Keane
- 21 February 2014
A breezy jangle pop record that's conspicuously devoid of any real nuance, intrigue or subtlety
It’s a brave thing to make a breezy jangle pop record in the year 2014. Tastes are more sophisticated, audiences are atomised, communal experiences are rarer, music fans are constantly sated yet never more whiney (yes you, you big moanyhole). Yet amid this maelstrom of ever-shifting contemporary mores and the conveyor belt of genres and microgenres, we get Withered Hand’s shamelessly unabashed paean to cosy, warm-bath melodies and charming singalongs. And guess what? It sounds like terribly old hat.
Some people may consider this record a sort of woozy throwback to ‘proper’ breathlessly jaunty songwriting; three-minute pop wonders with swoops and cooing and that necessary soupçon of lovelorn misanthropy. And to be fair, what else it has – to its credit – is its sincerity; it doesn’t sound forced or acted out. Instead, it’s that most terrible of things: nice. These are entry-level songs, inoffensive, unchallenging, join-the-dots acoustic indie numbers, with a healthy dollop of signposted verse / chorus / verse vanilla-ness.
The record is sunkissed and buoyant and whimsical and melancholy and all that vital stuff, but the problem with retreading old musical ground is that our expectations are higher now, our choices are innumerable, our time is precious and we yearn for something MORE (see, I told you, whiney). Dan Willson, whose project this is, clearly has a handy Rolodex, being able to call on members of the Vaselines, Belle and Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit to conjure up his, at times, cosy and pleasant creations and there’s undoubtedly a blithe charm to ‘Fall Apart’ and the title track. But the album is conspicuously devoid of any real nuance, intrigue or subtlety; it leaves this platter of samey morsels in front of you and expects the listener to want to explore, to come back and to keep indulging. Instead you just roll over, bloated with acoustic indie-gestion. Stick a tuning fork in me, I’m done.