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Parlour Flames - Parlour Flames

  by John Clarkson

published: 14 / 5 / 2013

Parlour Flames - Parlour Flames
Label: Cherry Red Records
Format: CD


Surprising but compelling debut album from Parlour Flames, the new band of Mancurian singer-songwriter Vinny Peculiar and former Oasis guitarist Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs

When Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs was playing stadiums with Oasis, he became synonymous with that group’s “ringing” guitar sound. ‘Parlour Flames’, the eponymous debut of his new band, and Arthurs’ first album since he left Oasis in 1999, is, however, a much more subdued affair. Merging together pastoral Simon and Garfunkel-esque tunes, stark piano ballads and elements of soft psychedelia, it is a riveting master class in understatement and restraint. Arthurs formed Parlour Flames in 2010 with his fellow Mancurian Alan Wilkes, a former mental nurse and singer-songwriter, who under the moniker of Vinny Peculiar has recorded nine solo albums of alternative pop. The pair initially decided to form a group, after Arthurs toured Europe as a bassist in Vinny Pecular’s backing band and then appeared on his 2011 album, ‘Other People Like Me’. Setting out to record an EP together in Arthurs’ home studio, they soon had enough material for an album of songs. Wilkes has adopted a less-is-more approach to his singing with Parlour Flames. His voice rarely raises to a shout, but his razor sharp lyrics – a set of vignettes, which are as poignant as they are often hysterically funny - and the quiet, insistent urgency of his vocals draw his listener quickly in. For all their self-constraint, Wilkes and Arthur use a mini-orchestra of instruments. They both contribute electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards and organ, while Arthur also plays the e-bow and some percussion and Wilkes the piano. ‘Sunday Afternoon’, which includes guest appearances from Bob Marsh on trumpet and Samson and Delilah’s Anna Zweck on flute, is a hazily wistful tribute to a 70’s childhood and the freedom of Sunday afternoons (“I get out of myself on a Sunday/I become somebody else”). ‘Lonely Girls and Horses’ breezily tells of an adolescent boy’s unfulfilled want for a lonely girl, who with her private school education and horse, however, remains out of his league(“I had my chance/I blew it/Years ago I never told you so/But I loved you so and I think that you knew it”).The echoing ’Jump the Brook Ruth’ – one of the psychedelic tracks - also reflects on misplaced yearning and is about a prank, played by an even younger boy and involving a trip wire, that ends in blood and disaster (“Jump the brook Ruth/Show me that you care/Jump the brook Ruth if you dare/Jump the brook Ruth play the game /I really like you in a way that I can’t explain”). Wilkes proves as equally adept on the subject of musicians and bands as he is on children and adolescents. ‘Never Heard of You’, a piano tune with gently rippling chords, delicately underplays its hilarious narrative about the blustering reaction of a once semi-famous rock star refused front-of-house access at a night club (“Hey did I tell you I was on Tops of the Pops/I met Ruby Flipper and Sam Fox/I’ve got my very own radio show/I’m exactly the kind of person you ought to know”). Its companion piece, ‘I’m in a Band’ starts out as another piano ballad and, equally comical, captures all the inane egotism and dim-witted arrogance that can come with being in a group (“I am the brightest star/You can shove your Monet and Degas/I am the genius you are the crowd/I play hard and I play loud”). Out of it Arthurs carves an initially soft, but then eventually soaring guitar line. It is one of the few times that he allows himself to rock out on the album. ‘Pop Music Football & Girls’, the closest track the album has to an anthem, is a melodic and poppy number about the three main points of importance and also of pain in many adolescent males’ psyches. In a fine album, Wilkes and Arthurs save their best number to last with the six minute ‘Too Soon the Darkness’. About the funeral of Wilkes’ uncle, a talented musician whose career never took off, it, like ‘I’m in a Band’, starts gently and reflectively and then, with Arthurs’ and Wilkes’ guitars escalating forwards, builds and builds ever upwards. Beginning with memories of Wilkes' uncle (“You built us a kite and an igloo/We kids thought the world of you”), it moves on, as the music starts to kick in, to describe his humanist funeral (“At the funeral I wept self piteously/As I thought to myself this is how it will be/A group of old musicians in a cemetery/Telling stories perverted by memory”). The effect is both startling and unbearably moving. With their tales of adolescence, bands and heartache, Parlour Flames have created an album that is as surprising as it is compelling.

Track Listing:-
1 Manchester Rain
2 Sunday Afternoon
3 Get in the Van
4 Never Heard of You
5 I'm in a Band
6 Lonely Girls & Horses
7 Jump the Brook Ruth
8 Pop Music Football & Girls
9 Broken Hearted Existentialist
10 Too Soon the Darkness

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live reviews

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 3/6/2013
Parlour Flames - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 3/6/2013
John Clarkson watches Parlour Flames, the new band of former Oasis rhythm guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs and cult Manchester-based singer-songwriter Vinny Peculiar, play an electrifying set at the Voodoo Rooms in Wdinburgh

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