# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Karen - Karen

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 26 / 11 / 2022

Karen - Karen
Label: Raving Pop Blast! Recordings
Format: CD


Euphoric indie guitar pop on the long-awaited debut album from Karen, one of the current projects of the Brilliant Corners and the Experimental Pop Band’s Davey Woodward

Writing about Karen’s debut album is slightly bizarre in that I have been devouring most of these songs live or in leaked studio demo form for a fair few years already. Indeed one of the many highlights, the pure uncomplicated pop of ‘Too Late’ I first heard back in 2015 when Karen played at the Birmingham Popfest. It was instantly catchy then and has not dimmed over time. It is without doubt one of singer, songwriter and guitarist Davey Woodward’s finest compositions of a near forty year musical career. In fact, this album wasn’t meant to be the band’s debut. A batch of songs destined to be the first album were recorded and shelved a few years back, as the band reduced from a four-piece to the power trio they are now. The songs back then were isnthe main slower and would have made for a more low key statement than the swaggering rock and roll gem that has just been released. Of those early tracks only three remain – the aforementioned ‘Too Late’ and the band’s first two (long sold out) singles ‘Ocean’ and ‘Estuary”’ It would have been a near criminal act not to include them and deny them a wider audience. ‘Ocean’, a brooding number, highlights the desolation of loneliness and depression with a crescendo of Wedding Present-esque guitars bringing the taught feeling of depression to a close. It is still the stunning centre-piece of most of the band’s infrequent gigs. Meanwhile ‘Estuary’ is the illegitimate child of The Velvet Underground (name checked in the song itself) and Jonathan Richman in which Woodward recounts fragmented memories of an uncompromising youth. It’s a dizzyingly good song that with the push of a major record label would surely have been a smash hit. That there are songs the equal if not better than ‘Estuary’ elsewhere on the album merely reinforces its quality. The strength of Woodward’s songwriting is matched by the musicianship of Hugo Morgan and Tom Adams, effortless on bass and drums respectively. Another song that would, in a parallel universe, be hummed by every tradesman in the land is the 6music loved ‘Hey’, a tale of relationship confusion – the ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ for the 21st Century! ‘Worry’ could also easily have been a classic alternative 80’s single, being blessed with a killer chorus of “In the back of the car you said I’d let you down” set over a melody with more hooks than a pirate panto. Album opener ‘Carrier Bag’ and ‘The Bears Are Watching Me’ are both solid guitar pop tracks that help give the album a more urgent rock feel that the unreleased debut would have lacked. The oldest song on the album is ‘All Time Low’ that was first demoed in a slightly different form about fifteen years ago when Woodward fronted the Experimental Pop Band. It didn’t quite fit back then, but now it’s been transformed into sleazy, primal beast of a song that provides a nice counter-balance to the more pop-orientated tracks around it. The only songs completely new to me on the album are “Leave This Town”, which in the hands of most other bands would be a potential single, but here amongst such sparkling numbers as ‘Hey’, ‘Estuary’ and ‘Too Late’ rather hides a little in the shadows, and ‘She Don’t Like My Beard’. During lockdown Woodward developed a fine beard that gave him the look of an indie Captain Birdseye and maybe the song is loosely inspired by this. We’ll probably never know. It is, however, a gentle ending to the album and very much the calm after the sonic storm. So where does this album sit in the impressive canon of Woodward’s career? A couple of years back I claimed that ‘Love & Optimism’, the second album by his other current band, The Winter Orphans, was probably his best and I still stand by that, but if ‘Love & Optimism’ was a body of work that captured the feel of being in the throes of the Covid pandemic, then ‘Karen’ is very much the riotous return to going out again, hearing loud music, dancing without fear of rebuke and basically seizing life by the short and curlies once more – the same joyous abandon as the ‘What’s in a Word’ LP or the ‘Fruit Machine’ EP from 1986. ‘Karen’ may prove to be the band’s only album and if so, it will be an intoxicating legacy that is hard to better.

Track Listing:-
1 Carrier Bag
2 Hey
3 The Bears Are Watching Me
4 Too Late
5 Leave This Town
6 Ocean
7 Estuary
8 Worry
9 All Time Low
10 Major Axe
11 She Don't Like My Beard

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Interview (2017)
Karen - Interview
Dixie Emill talks to ex-Brilliant Corners and Experimental Pop Band front man Davey Woodward about his new band Karen and their appearance at our next Bands Night at Gullivers in Manchester

live reviews

Exchange, Bristol, 23/1/2016
Karen - Exchange, Bristol, 23/1/2016
Former Brilliant Corners and the Experimental Pop Band front man Davey Woodward’s songwriting abilities remain undiminished as he re-emerges on the live circuit fronting‘super-group’ Karen at The Exchange in Bristol


Photoscapes (2017)
Karen - Photoscapes
Marie Hazelwood photographs Karen, the new band of Brilliant Corners and Experimental Pop Band front man Davey Woodward, at our recent Pennyblackmusic Bands Night at Gullivers in Manchester


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The Brilliant Corners and the Experimental Pop Band's Davey Woodward talks to Dixie Ernill about 'Love and Optimism', his second album under the moniker of Davey Woodward and The Winter Orphans.

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