published: 10 /
Debut album from Lucksmiths' voclaist and percussionist Tali White's side project, the Guild League, which, despite chirpy sing-a-long nature contains a surprisingly dark edge
Fall in love with, and to, the Guild League. That is all that needs to be said really, but alas, alack you clamour for more.
Oh alright then.
We travel from Whitby to the “banks of the mighty Mekong” in the space of the opening track 'Jetset…Go!', and I particularly appreciate the neatness of the opening line “disembark, leaving behind what you think you know”. So many expectant beginnings! Pregnant with possibilities etc etc (insert further superlative-laden fawnings). So, a collection of songs about travel then? Well of course, I could make some facile comment about journeys literal and metaphorical and good lord, it’s tempting me. After much contemplation, however, I have decided upon a core theme about relationships – sometimes implicit, at other times clearly to the fore. That may seem vague but forgive me for I am a history student by profession and I’d sooner lop my limbs off than er, go out one. Boom boom!
On the superficial level of a first listen everything seems lovely and chirpy and perfect for hot summer days when you want to run through fields and develop strange rashes in your low countries whist being captivated (and believe me you will be) by Tali White’s voice…but if you over analyse to death you can detect a thread of misery. The endearingly romantic musings on the much-loved handwriting of a loved one in 'The Neatest Hand' are juxtaposed with the seemingly sombre dip in the album on tracks such as 'What Adults Do' and 'Dangerous Safety' where Tali sings, presumably about the end of a relationship of some description, with a controlled, almost resigned, anger “It felt so good, it must be true, but hindsight made a liar of you” – sing along and feel a sense of bitter solidarity, if you’re into that kind of thing. Yet there is still an underlying nothing-can-defeat-me perkiness. Even on 'A Faraway Place' the lyric “sailing above the mess we’re in. Oh my love your face is a faraway place” is said with a sing-song simplicity. They harmonize, play cellos that bellow (ahem) and provide you with handclaps! It just sounds happy. Particularly on my favourite track 'Siamese Couplets' when they sing of the “spice in our bellies and ice in our hands” (trust me, you’ll be singing it soon enough…), charting a journey through Asia they outline broad differences and similarities – common threads and unique quirks, from the “international language of smiles” to the barbequed cockroach on offer at the market.
There’s an overriding sense of happiness and an ability to cope – no fatalism or introverted melancholy for them. They can survive heartbreak and the jungle. Wowsas! Perhaps I make it sound trite, but the Guild League make it sound cutely poetic. Don’t listen to me: listen to them.
There is much to be found in The Guild League - they take the formula and make it unique through intelligent and heartfelt reflections from these travels – of whatever kind.
I like them. I like the fact that I can lie on my bed and let them wash over me, or I can sit and ponder an image like a pseudo-intellectual Smiths’ fan. Either way I’m happy with their thoughtful observations which impress upon the memory. And did I mention there are plenty of cellos and enough double-edged images to keep any student of English literature amused for weeks? Blimey.
The Neatest Hand
Cosmetropolis (London Swings)
What Adults Do
A Maze of Greys
A Faraway Place