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Kelman - Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive

  by John Clarkson

published: 30 / 9 / 2006

Kelman - Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive
Label: Liner
Format: CD


Monochromic, but epic set of confessions of drunken scrapes, one night stands and brief, doomed love affairs on masterly debut album by London trio Kelman

Kelman have created on their masterly debut album, ‘Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive’, a monochromic, but epic set of confessions of drunken scrapes, one night stands and brief, doomed love affairs. The group was formed by songwriter Wayne Gooderham (vocals and guitar) and his brother Marc (drums and percussion) out of the ashes of their much-praised-at-Pennyblackmusic previous band Baptiste, which broke up in 2003 a few months after releasing their only album, ‘Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart’. After a brief spell of playing with a cellist, the Gooderhams worked as a duo for two years, before enlisting into Kelman’s line-up at the end of last year ‘Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive’s producer, multi-instrumentalist Paul Ragsdale (keyboards, melodica and percussion). Kelman’s music merges the stark beauty of the Velvet Underground at the time of their 1969 self-titled third album with the blunt melancholy of Arab Strap and occasionally the surging intensity of Tindersticks. Wayne Gooderham’s sparse lyricism in its earthiness and spiky realism is meanwhile reminiscent of both American writers Henry Miller and Charles Bukowksi and also the Glaswegian author and 1994 Booker Prize winner James Kelman, after whom Kelman have named themselves. “Drinking alone” Wayne sings as the opening line on the opening song ‘Fucked and Far From Home’, setting out instantly the criteria not only for the rest of the track, but also for much else of what will follow over the album and across the course of its remaining seven songs. Gooderham’s fluttering jangles of guitar combine with Marc’s insistent clicks of drums and Ragsdale’s sudden droning sears of keyboard. A metaphorical number both about being out of sort with oneself and also the faltering of a relationship, Wayne sings early on it wearily “The space between us/so deep and blue” and concludes with the weighty, bruised mantra of “I know that every ideal crumbles in our world/I’m picking through the pieces trying to find something I can hold.” It is bleak start, but also matter-of-factly honest and one that captures perfectly the obsessive behavior that many of display towards details and moments when a relationship goes awry, and we start to agonize, especially when drunk, where and when things began to go wrong. Yet, for all their darkness, Kelman are not without humour. Their song titles-‘Fucked and Far From Home’, ‘The Happiest Man Alive’ which opens with the lines “I’m on the way down/I can read the signs” and the ridiculously long-titled ‘Resolve is Never Stronger Than In the Morning After the Night It Was Never Weaker’ about the after effects of a one-night stand-alone imply a wry wit. And indeed much of ‘Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive’ is very funny, with some of the album’s blackest moments being interjected with high comedy. “I I've changed the pillows and the sheets / and I've cleaned the come from off of my jeans” sings Wayne about a messy sexual encounter on ‘The Happiest Man Alive’, his rattling, brittle guitar combining with Marc’s tingling, spooky brushwork and a murmuring glockenspiel, before concluding the song with the album’s most poignant lines, “But, if I found your cigarettes/then I would smoke them just to taste your breath one more time." On ‘Resolve….’, which is dominated by Ragsdale’s chiming hums of keyboard, he meanwhile lilts “Falling in to bed, with the wrong person again, oh well… what the hell.” There is always a danger that with lyrics as strong as these that they may domineer over everything else on a record, While Wayne Gooderham’s guitar playing is rudimentarily efficient, he, however, receives first-rate backing from both his brother and Ragsdale, and Kelman escape this trapping. Marc with his drum work flits across the recording from providing light brush strokes to tom-tom beats to thunderous cracklings of noise, while the excellent Ragsdale adds texture to anything he touches. As ‘Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive’ progresses, they shift between patches of dark and light, slowly building up a crescendo, which reaches a peak on the penultimate track, ‘In the Midst of All This Joy’. Another ironically-humoured title, Wayne Gooderham’s sense of alienation and loneliness on it has reached s a pinnacle of despair (“Cause I’ve learned, what not to say, and I’ve learned, when to look away… and it wears me out/I’m all played out),and ,a six minute torrent of echoing reverberation and hazy feedback, it finds Ragsdale with his thrusting keyboards and melodica, and Marc Gooderham with his sledgehammer drums both pushing themselves ever onwards towards new heights. The album’s coda is the bittersweet, soft, ‘Some Things Never Work Out’, a testimony to life not happening as one would like and plan ("Horoscopes lie/ They'll just fuck up your life / that's been shaped / day by day / by countless tiny mistakes") and another potential romance that has failed to get off the ground (“I never did hold your close”), Kelman have chaptered life on ‘Loneliness has Kept Us Alive’ with its small tragedies, absurdites and comedy. It is far from a pretty picture, but for its listener has plenty of rewards.

Track Listing:-
1 Fucked And Far From Home
2 A New Career In A New Town
3 These Days
4 The Happiest Man Alive
5 Resolve Is Never Stronger Than In The Morning After The Night It Was Never Weaker
6 Hearts Break Everyday
7 In The Midst Of All This Joy
8 Some Things Never Work Out

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Interview (2008)
Kelman - Interview
In what is our fifth interview with him, John Clarkson speaks to former Baptiste front man Wayne Gooderham about the surprising tentative optimism of his current band Kelman's second album, 'I Felt My Sad Heart Soar'

live reviews

Albany, London, 11/10/2007
Kelman - Albany, London, 11/10/2007
At a show at the Albany in London organised by the Uptight club, Ben Howarth watches one-time Pennyblackmusic Bands Night stars Kelman and Joe Gideon and the Shark play high quality sets
Betsy Trotwood, London, 10/5/2005

digital downloads



I Felt My Sad Heart Soar (2008)
Excellent, frequently surprising second album of dark, haunting melodies and atmospherics from fine London-based trio, Kelman.
Is This How It Ends ? (2007)
The Heart Is A Useless Ally (2006)
The Happiest Man Alive (2005)

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