Work is crazy at the moment and the impending arrival of the “Beast From The East”, the apocalyptic snow dump to top all previous records in the UK brings a continuing sense of winter gloom.
So a single tweet from Danny Coughlan aka Crybaby this morning brought a wee ray of sunshine. Danny’s working again and by the looks of things, it’s with both Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura and with great excitement, the godlike genius of Edwyn Collins.
Danny has been quiet for some time. His one and only LP as Crybaby, 2012’s eponymous debut, is six years old. His live shows have been few and far between. We saw him play a blinder at the Lexington just after the LP was released. With a small scale line-up, the gig was entrancing and moving. Crybaby’s album wasn’t particularly new or innovative but the quality of the songwriting and performance made it stand out from the crowd. With tons of reverb evoking both Phil Spector and Roy Orbison, as well as Richard Hawley and the better part of Morrissey’s output, Coughlan’s music was easy to enjoy.
The songs were concise, direct but beautifully crafted. Mostly about love but also about loss. The song titles pretty much speak for themselves – “I Cherish The Heartbreak More Than The Love That I Lost”, “We’re Supposed To Be In Love”, “What Am I Suppose To Without You Now”. Big blast of timpani and twangy guitars carried Danny’s lovelorn vocals.
It was gorgeous dramatic music but what set it apart was “Veils”, a meditation on war and the price that gets paid. We watched up close at the Lexington as Danny tore into this heartbreaking song, which picks up the threads from World War 1 through to Iraq and Afghanistan:
From tenement to sink estate
Comes with post to boys that wait
Swept out by the Queen and state..
Were you there in the chapel
Singing “Glory halle-lu”
Let common sense prevail
For they know not what they do.
Lose the boy, make the man
See the world in jagged land
Face down in the desert sand..
Bang the drum and draw the veil
For Helmand and for Passchendaele,
For Helmand and for Passchendaele.
Modern direct commentaries on war are few and far between. As someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s with the Falkland War and the Irish Troubles, the likes of Billy Bragg and Elvis Costello spoke about the impact on the working classes, particularly in the likes of “Shipbuilding”. “Veils” captures the bloody futile cost of military conflict.
But beyond that, we’ve had pretty much six years of musical silence.
So to see this morning’s tweet, with nothing more than an announcement of a forthcoming album with an accompanying taster video gave my heart a lift.
Working with Tracyanne Campbell looks like a tremendous matchup. Both have a knack for capturing the bittersweet emotions of love. Her day job in Camera Obscura, the Glasgow band originally produced by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, has delivered a couple of albums which are family favourites in “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” and “Desire Lines”. In particular, the wonderfully witty “Hey Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”, a riposte to Mr Cole’s song from his debut album with the Commotions. “Rattlesnakes”.
Tragically, Camera Obscura are on something of hiatus after the death of Carey Lander, their keyboard player, in 2015 following a long illness with cancer. It has been five years since their last album and without knowing the background to the new Tracyanne and Danny project, it is welcome news that both have new music coming available. A bit of background googling reveals that the sessions were recorded over the last couple of years and engineered by Edwyn and Sean Read, who has worked with Dexys. They recorded the album in Helmsdale in the Scottish Highlands, at the behest of their manager, Francis Macdonald who also happens to be the drummer in Teenage Fanclub.
The montage of tunes on the Youtube preview doesn’t reveal anything revolutionary. It seems to be Tracyanne doing the singing with Danny and Edwyn kicking around. There are two songs that appear to be joined together, the first drawing on the Scottish country sound of Camera Obscura with the second featuring a very Orange Juice guitar motif. Both sound typical of the quality one expects from both Crybaby and Camera Obscura.
The album appears to be due on 25 May from Merge Records and I’m already looking forward to it.
And boy, if we got some live dates………