"The Last Holy Writer"
Trembling Blue Stars
"The Last Holy Writer"
Really, it should never have come to this. If ever there was a band designed for just the one album, it’s surely Trembling Blue Stars, whose opening gambit, the fondly-remembered Her Handwriting, was entirely designed as a cathartic rumination on Robert Wratten’s most recent break-up. Job done, you would have thought, but here they are, plugging away on album number seven as if they were, say, the Manic Street Preachers or somesuch.
Of course, unlike said Manics, the Stars have never really seen their following flowering beyond the fanzines, and it would be fair to suggest that Wratten’s lyrics may still be a bit on the dark side for mass consumption. There’s an interesting excursion into nu-gazing by the name of Darker Colder Slower, for instance, while Idyllwyld ruminates that “one by one, our hopes have disappeared” and, in the course of By False Lights, several people actually die. Yet, as you’d expect from someone who learned their craft on Sarah Records, there’s also a healthy sprinkling of romance – not always founded on success, admittedly (there’s an especially sweet sense of longing to The Coldest Sky), but always involving a greater optimism than on some of those earlier recordings.
Where The Last Holy Writer really scores, though, is in its impressive breadth. Wratten is in terrific voice this time around, recalling Paddy McAloon circa 1990 with his robust fragility, and singing duties are split more than ever before with Beth Arzy, and rightly so; there’s a resolute tenderness to her performance that’s intoxicatingly reminiscent of Emma Pollock and is gloriously effective on A Statue To Wilde, a gay rights paean worthy of the Hidden Cameras. Finally having a stable line-up has freed them up musically too, resulting in the likes of the beefily Byrdsy November Starlings, a fascinating instrumental by the name of Schnee Gletscher Glas that takes its dramatic cues from Elbow and features the best use of a harmonica this year, and, best of all, Sacred Music, which, in a fairer world, would be a colossal breakthrough single and would lead to a Robin Guthrie-inspired guitar plangency epidemic.
Realistically, of course, it’d be one of the unlikelier delights of the age if this were to trouble the charts in any way, but that’s entirely beside the point. After years of releases that, while fine in themselves, could be somewhat taken for granted, Trembling Blue Stars have finally raised their game to add a second masterpiece to their canon, and it’s stellar stuff indeed.
By Iain Moffat
Trembling Blue Stars [Noripcord]
foto: Archivo Elefant
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