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Wild Swans - English Electric Lightning

  by John Clarkson

published: 21 / 3 / 2009

Wild Swans - English Electric Lightning
Label: Occultation Recordings
Format: 10"


Magnificent ten inch vinyl only single from Liverpool-based group the Wild Swans, who, reforming after an absence of two decades, have at last matched their early enormous possibility

For a few brief months in the early 1980s the Wild Swans seemed destined for some sort of greatness. The Liverpool-based post-punk group toured across a freezing Britain in December 1981 in support to Echo and Bunnymen to much acclaim. Their first single, which followed in early 1982, was scrappily recorded and flawed, its A side 'Revolutionary Spirit' in mono, and its B side 'God Forbid' in stereo. Lofty in sound with dazzling, melodic keyboards and guitars and lush vocals from singer Paul Simpson, it also, however, hinted at a similar exaltedness. That promise of greatness was never though reached. The Wild Swans broke up shortly after the release of 'Revolutionary Spirit' with sudden, swift acrimony. While they subsequently reformed in 1985, their debut album, 'Bringing Out the Ashes', when it finally came in 1988, was a disappointment, and its follow-up, 1990's 'Space Flower', with all the other members having departed, was effectively a Paul Simpson solo album in all but name. This unhappy experience proved all too much for Simpson, who quit singing for almost twenty years to concentrate instead on his ambient, instrumental one-man project Skyray, and whom has only recently returned with a new line-up of the Wild Swans. The realigned group, as well as featuring original member Ged Quinn on keyboards, also consists of Ricky Rene Maymi (Brian Jonestown Massacre) on guitar, Mike Mooney (Spiritualized, Lupine Howl, Applecraft) on bass and Steve Beswick on drums and has just released a new single, 'English Electric Lightning/The Coldest Winter in a Hundred Years', on 10" vinyl in a limited edition of 900 hand pressed copies on Occulation Records www.occulation.co.uk. An album will follow later in the year. 'English Electric Lightning' is magnificent, a soaring and hymnal six minutes of chiming guitars and surging keyboards, which finally lives up to all the potential alluded at all those years ago with 'Revolutionary Spirit'. It carries a similar sense of harmony and melody to 'Revolutionary Spirit', but, as well as being much better recorded, where it surpasses that first record is in Simpson's urgent half hopeful, half despairing call-to-arms lyrics, which far less abstract than much of what he has written previously, throws together Johnny Rotten, Geoffrey Chaucer, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and John Milton and examines everything that he sees as both being right and wrong about Britain. The seven and half minute B side, 'The Coldest Winter in a a Hundred Years', is equally strong, a spoken word, comical monologue extracted from Simpson's forthcoming memoirs and, which set against a backdrop of scaling guitars and shimmering keyboards, tells of the first years of the Wild Swans and his own history sharing a flat in Liverpool with Bunnymen drummer, the late Pete de Freitas. A brave and ambitous single from this most unfortunate of groups who three decades on have at last matched up to all their early enormous possibility.

Track Listing:-
1 English Electric Lightning (Single)
2 The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years

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Interview (2011)
Wild Swans - Interview
John Clarkson speaks to Paul Simpson from Liverpool post-punk band the Wild Swans about his group's first album in twenty two years, 'The Coldest Winter For a Hundred Years'
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