New Leaf - The Year of the Ox

  by John Clarkson

published: 23 / 5 / 2022




New Leaf - The Year of the Ox

John Clarkson ref;lects on Edinburgh-based band New Leaf's fourth album 'The Year of the Ox', which recorded originally in 2001, has finally seen release twenty years later.in an updated version.





Article

Jeremy Thoms has been a prolific presence on the Edinburgh independent music scene for forty years, and since he moved there from his home city of Aberdeen in 1982 after the break-up of his early band, the John Peel-endorsed The Presidents Men. For the last fifteen years, he has fronted post-punk/alternative rock outfit The Cathode Ray, who have recorded three albums whose songs about dysfunction, alienation and breakdown have caught the uncertainty of the last decade perfectly. Before The Cathode Ray ,he was in another long-term project, New Leaf, which was centred around the songwriting partnership of Thoms (guitars, keyboards and vocals) and Andy Kelly (lead vocals), and also featured in different line-ups future Cathode Ray members, Neil Baldwin (bass) and David Mack (drums, percussion). At one point big in Japan, New Leaf recorded three albums, ‘On Safari’ (1995), ‘Stereophonic’ (1997) and ‘Panorama’ (1999) before splitting,. They reformed and had just about finished a fourth LP, ‘The Year of the Ox’, in 2001 when personal circumstances intervened, forcing the band to split up again. Twenty years on, during lockdown, Thoms and Kelly decided to revive the abandoned album, adding new overdubs, and remixing and mastering the recordings in Thoms’ home studio. Thoms to his very great credit has never followed trends. He currently fronts a guitar band when the majority of musical interest is on singer-songwriters bedroom artists and electronica, and similarly in the late 1990s and early noughties, when Brit Pop, dance and grunge were all huge, New Leaf again went against convention and drew on easy listening, country, folk, soul and orchestral pop influences, all of which are very much in evidence on 'The Year of the Ox'. At the time of the original recordings, Thoms’ first marriage had recently ended, and Kelly had also just had a relationship finish, and that is reflected in the lyrics. ‘The Year of the Ox’ is essentially a break-up album. “Nothing’s going to be the same without you/Nothing’s going to be the same with you at all,” croons Kelly on the jazz-tinged, percussion-heavy ‘Postcards’, while bittersweet ballad ’The Irony of It All’ finds him in mental turmoil after meeting by chance his ex in the park who has already got a new love in tow. “I was dropped like a stone down a well,” Kelly complains. 'The Year of the Ox’, however, never comes across as self-pitying and more cathartic and often oddly joyful. It as if Thoms and Kelly have chosen to take their collective agonies and decided to do something positive with them by throwing everything into their songwriting. The arrangements throughout the fourteen tracks are immaculate, and both Reginaldo Dias’s crescendoing trumpet and Thoms, Mack and bassist John Hall’s combined razor-tight percussion add much to the mix. It is also often very funny. Both ‘I Believed in You’ and ‘Tiger’ are soaring, somewhat hammed-up Latin/bossa nova numbers, and ‘Deep Water’ is a cod country and western number. Potential hope for the future is also found on the album’s most outstanding track, orchestral torch ballad ‘Fpre in the Stars' ("If there is someone out there for me, let the elements decide where there is fire in the stars tonight"). ‘The Year of the Ox’ is music as therapy in its highest form.



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New Leaf - The Year of the Ox


New Leaf - The Year of the Ox



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