Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Lewis - L'Amour


03 June 2014, 11:30 Written by Alex Wisgard
The problem with reviewing hyperobscure reissues ​like Lewis’s mysterious L’Amour album is that the writer has to spend a great deal of time trudging through backstory and rehashing the press release or liner notes. Still, the scene needs to be set, the context needs to be put in place, and the existence of the record itself needs to be justified. But let’s be clear - no one particularly cared about this album coming out. Or, more accurately, no one realised they cared about it coming out. Lewis is (or was) the nom de plume of one Randall A Wulff. That’s him on the cover there. But his name and his face are all anyone really knows about him, and we barely know those. He recorded L’amour in 1983 with the help of one Philip Lees (also missing in action), and put it out on his own label R.A.W. Recordings (Randal A Wulff - geddit?). He paid for the album photoshoot with a cheque which bounced, and was never heard from again. This is the kind of enigmatic private press stuff that cratediggers live for. And there are no better cratediggers in the field than Light In The Attic records. So, following mild clamour for a full-scale issue of L’amour, kudos to the people who brought you Rodriguez for once again giving the people what they didn’t know they wanted.

Look at the cover one more time - I promise I won’t ask you to do it again. Shirtless. Immaculate blonde hair. A slight whiff of yuppyish skeez about his come-hither stare. Lewis. L’amour. Check out the song titles: “Cool Night in Paris”, “Romance for Two”, “Love Showered Me”. Oh shit, you might think, at worst this is going to be execrable yacht rock - self-indulgent “master of romance” bollocks of the highest order. At best, maybe a kinda sorta funny whiteboy playing at being Barry White. Let’s press play and get it over with.

It takes thirty seconds of “I Thought the World of You” to realise that Lewis, wherever he may be, whoever he may be, was/is a master of subtlety. Hell, L’amour is so delicate it barely exists. It as if he’s tried to make songs out of Music for Airports or something. Wisps of Lees’ synths drift in and out of the mix, there’s some gently-picked acoustic guitars, and some deft piano work…and that voice. Arthur Russell is an obvious comparison - Lewis’s is a soft, inviting baritone - but if anything, his delivery is even more mealy-mouthed than Russell’s. You could say the words were an afterthought, if there weren’t the odd cryptic phrase (“Stars in the sky line your eyes,” he whispers on “My Whole Life”...I think) poking through. I looked at the cover and assumed “this man thinks he’s a sex god.” I listen to the record, and picture him nervously staring at the floor as he fumbles with his belt.

L’amour is an album of ambient torch songs; comparisons have been drawn to Springsteen’s 4-track masterpiece Nebraska, but to these ears, the mildly chintzy keyboards and songs of love and heartbreak call to mind Tunnel of Love a little more strongly.; on the instrumental “Even Rainbows Turn Blue”, you’re all but waiting for the Boss to chime in about the pains of being lonely on the Jersey boardwalk. The mumbled country stroll of “Cool Night in Paris” sounds exactly like its title, right down to the Gitane fug of the synthesizers in the background, while the rolling pianos on a few songs towards the end sound like Tom Waits’ favourite dive bar, cleared of all the winos and redecorated in chrome.

Drumless and bassless, L’amour is as intimate as a late morning lie-in - bum notes (and there are an endaring few) are left completely in tact, you can hear shirt sleeves swipe against guitar strings, and the almost wordless vocals sound almost like Lewis is too scared to make his feelings known. For all the comparisons you could make, there really is nothing else I can think of that sounds like Lewis. We may not know where he came from, who he is, or where he’s gone (all royalties are being held for him by Light in the Attic on the offchance he may one day return), but at least he left these tracks behind.

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