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Wave Pictures - A Season in Hull

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 21 / 2 / 2016



Wave Pictures - A Season in Hull
Label: Wymeswold Records
Format: LP

intro

Immensely appealing vinyl-only acoustic album, recorded around one microphone, from indie act, the Wave Pictures


For whatever reason, the Wave Pictures have never quite shook off a reputation as a slightly shambolic, lo-fi indie jingly-jangly band. It's always been slightly unfair – even the album that made that reputation (2008's 'Instant Coffee Baby) contained plenty of clues that their musical hinterland was not just a pile of Smiths albums. Gradually, the curious Belle and Sebastian fans stopped making up the bulk of their audience. In their place, the front row of a typical Wave Pictures gig was transformed into wide eyed awe, as – performing without a setlist – a succession of semi-improvised solos demonstrated a trio with a rare natural chemistry. Between 2008 and 2013, fuelled by the astonishingly prolific songwriting of David Tattersall, the band released six full length albums and a number of EPs. There were enough songs left over for a two David Tattersall solo albums and a number of self-released curiosities. This all cumulated in 2013's 'City Forgiveness', a remarkable tour-de-force over two discs. In the years since its release, it now sounds even more remarkable than it did then. Tattersall's bizarre word associations and cryptic humour had matured. His words were now compelling – songs of love and family, of confusion and confidence, and yes, plenty of cryptic wordplay. And the music was astonishing – it didn't matter if the band were playing sludgy psych blues or springy afro-pop, each song demanded repeat plays. Until then, the Wave Pictures had appeared to be on a steady upward climb, but the more you listened to the twenty tracks of 'City Forgiveness', the more it felt like this might be the summit. There was no shame in that, but it was hard to imagine how they could possibly improve on that. Alas, the band may have been thinking the same thing. There have been plenty of shows, and some new records, since. But no 'proper' follow-up to that peerless double album. Instead, we've had an EP of leftovers, an album of Daniel Johnson covers and a collaborative record with Billy Childish, where the music was mostly written by Billy Childish, and – unfortunately – it showed as repeat plays became progressively less rewarding. Childish's monkish limitations are admirable, in their way, but the joy of the Wave Pictures had always been the way they transcend their self-imposed limitations. Now, we have a vinyl-only acoustic album, recorded around a single microphone. Given that the Wave Pictures always record live straight-to-tape and rarely take more a few days to make an album, that isn't quite the departure it would be for some bands. But, even so, such an approach inevitably means the rich feast of 'City Forgiveness' isn't revisited. And yet, with Tattersall back in the songwriters' chair, it is a big improvement on the last record. The idea for this record came from Darren Hayman, a regular co-conspirator and a former producer (although one of the aforementioned curiosities was 'Dan of Green Gables', where two thirds of the Wave Pictures teamed up with a fiddle player in a similar set-up, so we are not in entirely uncharted territory). There are also nods here to the other acoustic album in the Wave Pictures catalogue, 'Little Martha', a collection of acoustic instrumentals, where Tattersall – whose electric guitar sound finds a middle ground between Rory Gallagher and Mark Knopfler – showed off his mastery of blues style, chiefly inspired by John Fahey. In fact, the sound is lovely – rich and warm, with the interplay between the trio showed off marvellously. I was initially sent this record to review as an MP3 download, but it didn't really come alive until I got a proper copy I could play on my stereo. As is generally the case, the songs themselves are growers – on first listen, the deceptive simplicity of the tunes mixed with the bizarre lyrics doesn't always work. You need time to let the lyrics sink in, to properly digest the arrangements and hear the hidden depths in the melodies. The songs were written quickly, and it sometimes feels like the band are feeling their way around them. The listener has to feel their way around them too. But the Wave Pictures play and record so often, it works. The songs feel fresh and alive. They surprise themselves. Admittedly, this isn't quite the Wave Pictures at their best. I don't begrudge an acoustic album, but I won't pretend I don't like the electric sound more. There are a couple of lyrics that might have been left on the cutting room floor. As a lyricist, Tattersall's charm is the way he pulls victory from the jaws of defeat, but using a chorus of “see you later alligator, in a while crocodile” stretches that metaphor too far. It may, in fact, be the worst song he has ever written. But, there are also some of his best here – songs of total sincereity, that go straight to the belly. I mentioned their unfair pigeon-holing as an 'indie' band at the start of this review. Here, that reputation is totally cast off, as their love of blues and country shines through. It feels real – uncalculated and the music they would instinctively play if they happened to be sitting around with some acoustic guitars and a bottle of wine. The Wave Pictures have made better albums than this (and, indeed, with this record having been recorded a year ago, even before the last album was released, they may have made another since). But, like their very best records, this is an album you can't imagine any other band making.



Track Listing:-
1 A Season In Hull
2 Remains
3 The Coaster in Santa Cruz
4 Slick Black River From The Rain
5 Thin Lizzy Live And Dangerous
6 Don’t Worry My Friend, Don’t Worry At All
7 Tropical Fish
8 Memphis Slim In Paris
9 Flow My Tears, The Musician Said
10 A Letter From Hull (Dom’s Song)
11 The Pharmacy Cross
12 Hot Rain Riding On The Salt Lake
13 David In A Field Of Pumpkins


Band Links:-
https://www.facebook.com/thewavepictures/
http://www.thewavepictures.com/
https://thewavepictures.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/thewavepictures
https://www.youtube.com/user/thewavepicturesVEVO
http://www.vevo.com/artist/the-wave-pictures


Label Links:-
http://cargorecordsdirect.co.uk/collections/wymeswold-records



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interviews


Interview (2008)
Wave Pictures - Interview
Ben Howarth chats to Dave Tattersall, the lead singer with lo-fi London-based indie guitar group, the Wave Pictures, about his band and their latest alabum, 'Instant Coffee Baby'

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Wave Pictures - PIcture House Social, Sheffield, 24/6/2018
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