Names can be deceptive. You go to all that effort of forming a band, finding the right mix of people, writing songs, recording them, and then you go and call yourself Prefab Sprout. Or, like Cherry Ghost, you give yourself a name that brings to mind a 60′s female soul singer rather than indie from the North. However, you can make exceptions when you realise that Simon Aldred, song writer and driving force behind Cherry Ghost, found his bands name in a Wilco lyric. Formed in Bolton in 2005, they draw inspiration from a long line of Northern bands that offer hope with melancholy, a distinctive sound that makes it hard to believe that this is their debut. A maturity and a confidence comes across in the writing, words and lyrics the likes of Simon Armitage would be proud to have put to paper.
The initial release, Mathematics, found favour with those nice people in BBC Radioland, and it’s easy to see why. With an “Unchained Melody”esque rise and fall on the guitar line, the words swoop in and out of the melody, haunting guitar effects resonating throughout. Aldred has a voice that creates a feeling of sadness, even when the words are at their most positive and uplifting. The stunning People, Help The People, one of the finest releases of the year, sees the narrator offer a hand of comfort to the lonely and the weary, sung with a dejection that brings to mind grey skies and sadness. Even without knowing its origins it just resonates of the north, tales of factories and dimly lit, rain sodden streets. But, with anticipation and expectation – as seen on the title track, Thirst for Romance – there is hope of better times ahead in those northern skies.
As good though as People Help The People is, it is not the standout track. That honour goes to Roses, a subtle, moving number where the delicate lyrics are sung with an understated passion: “Roses, help me to pretend, blushing brides and cosmonauts don’t met the bitter end”, a search for optimism, wanting relationship to flourish but knowing how misplaced that optimism can be. They can also do upbeat, even if Here Come The Romans sails close to side of Chas and Dave, and the epic in the brooding Mary on the Mend. The verbal skill displayed on this tale of failed marriages and brave false starts is sublime: “By rights, we should have been choking, on every word the preacher had us repeat – your summers are haunted with memories of love-sick strays”. This song never cascades into pomp and bluster, but holds a steady hand throughout, the drama played out through the words.
This album is destined to be this years slow burner, in the manner of Richard Hawley’s last record. One by one we will fall to its charms. There is nothing that innovative, nothing that groundbreaking, just a collection of wonderful songs, beautifully written and performed. Who could ask for anything else?