Since my high school days back in the good ole ‘90s I’ve been a fan of Britpop. And Britpop since the ‘90s and before has always lyrically had such a great, to me at least but I’m sure countless others as well, lack of concern for its subject matter. The songs’ subject matter is unequally as beautiful as the music. I think of the Beatles “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” the Stones “Mother’s Little Helper” or The Stone Roses “Mersey Paradise,” whose tunes musically are beautiful and intricate yet their themes are violent and beautifully depressing. I don’t know maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment and terse beauty all the same.
I found myself in this same dimension when I started off listening to London singer/songwriter Jerome Smail’s debut record Ashes of Summertime. I got a whiff of this old reminiscence in the Smiths sounding opener “Pleasure From Your Pain” which includes the line “You’ll see me smiling as your life slips down the drain,” which is delivered with a nonchalant English monotone that even had me, a self-described asshole, blushing. I mean what a line! Next we follow it up with the melancholy “Forever Seems So Long,” which lays down the law with the mirroring afflictions of an enigmatic line like “time has come and gone / I cannot move on.” Then comes the frightening and sparse folksy acoustic “December Rose.”
Things pick up next on slightly rocking “Morning After” which gets some chain smoking vocal effects by way of Garage Band effects and a little bit of electric sitar or some keyboardish effects. Totally reminded me of the Charlatans in a way, as did the washed out “The Waved Rolled Back” with its synth-pop orchestration but even more so as it rolled into the upbeat “Long Way From Home.” Things take an ethereal and Pink Floyd style turn on the woozy “Lost and Found” and then change gears on the jumpy and guitar-centric rocker “All Gone.”
On Ashes of Summertime Jerome Smail claws away at several different eras of his native Britpop sometimes landing blows and at others sounding like he’s not quite got the footing right. This is not a jab. I quite liked his misses in the way I often find I like my own.
The fact is he tried and maybe missed a bit of footing here and there but none of these tracks suffer for it but rather show a voice that is trying things and is succeeding and faltering at the same time. I applaud Smail for trying out a diverse range of styles on an album, even though not all of them suit his best interest. To me it shows he is willing to risk failure in his early work in order to make future offerings more rounded. Art is always a risk and I wouldn’t be surprised if these early works both breed better offerings in the future.
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