The Wave Pictures - If You Leave It Alone

by Al Brown Rating: Release Date:2009-05-04

I can't deny the disappointment that I felt on first hearing this record, but then it did have a lot to live up to. The band's previous two albums were freewheeling, candid, often funny affairs which came out of nowhere and put the heart and guts back into British guitar pop. This one is slow and painfully introspective - instead of driving the album forward Jonny Helm's stripped-down drums barely register; frontman David Tattersall in full control as he spills his heart out again and again.

It's a break-up record; it wallows in loneliness and depression; it is unforgivably self-absorbed but at times compelling. You will tire of Tattersall mindlessly describing the minutiae of his life on 'Canary Wharf' and 'I Thought of You Again', but there are brighter spots. The more carefree pop of 'My Kiss' and 'Come On Daniel' are welcome distractions in the gloom. Even the least interesting songs here are subtly arranged and many have a trademark Tattersall one-liner to lift them above the mediocre. On 'Tiny Craters in the Sand' he observes "I cut my hair and you grew yours/ There always has to be the same amount of hair in the world". Even in this department there are missteps though: "I was doing press-ups in the hotel lobby/The lobby with me was unimpressed" is no more interesting than it is clumsy.

All is not lost though; he is still capable of wit and subtle imagery. On 'Too Many Questions' he takes the perspective of his former lover, memorably summing up the turning point of their relationship with the couplet: "In an instant best forgotten/We went from ripe to rotten". His lack of bitterness in this exercise is refreshing; he condenses their breakdown into a few key lines and ascribes no blame. The jauntiness of the music on this track adds alot too: shuffling drums and a delightful clarinet solo help maintain a perversely light-hearted mood.

No one could call this a perfect record - perhaps its many faults do outweigh its charms - but it is honest and heartfelt. Inscrutable candour seems to be David Tattersall's greatest gift as well as his Achilles heel. It compels him to write intensely personal songs that nail feelings of love and confusion like few others. It also means his songwriting is often solipsistic and at the complete mercy of fluctuations in his emotional state. This can be frustrating but it's also what makes The Wave Pictures a band worthy of devotion.

Best Tracks: 'Come On Daniel', 'Too Many Questions', 'Strawberry Cables'

Alistair Brown

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