Sad Lovers and Giants - Mission Creep - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sad Lovers and Giants - Mission Creep

by Simon Heavisides Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-31
Sad Lovers and Giants - Mission Creep
Sad Lovers and Giants - Mission Creep

Sadly you can’t put your life on hold waiting for a new Sad Lovers and Giants record, this is after all only their second album of new material in over 25 years. What you can do however is take the opportunity to remember again what makes them such a unique and (almost) secret pleasure.

Initial signs are reassuringly positive, an intriguingly open-ended album title and a haunting cover. Opening instrumental Cranes seems placed to draw you gently back into their very specific world, a little like a lulling countdown towards a hypnotic state where you never consciously reach the end.

From then on its one finely polished jewel after another, maybe that's the advantage of Mission Creep being a long time coming, plenty of time to stockpile strong songs, there's nothing half-baked or rushed sounding here.

The sax that winds its way through Biblical Crows carries faint, but welcome, echoes of Psychedelic Furs' Sister Europe, lyrics hint at uncertainty to come, 'There's something wrong with the games we play.'  Beauty is Truth doesn't shy from grand statements, 'This is the truth, it's the meaning of life' or timely and ominous warnings, 'you won't get a second chance,' spines are already tingling. Uncharted Islands then sidles up and slips the knife between your ribs, 'the past won't set you free, it drags your spirits down and mocks you with your dreams'.

There's something beautifully English about Sad Lovers, particularly when it comes to frontman Garce, not in some parochial Brexit-world culs de sac sense thankfully, but something much deeper, more in the way you hear the Kinks and instinctively know where they come from. His vocals on the surface clear and calm, but wracked with a tension that's underplayed just to the right degree and therefore always happily falling short of tipping into melodrama. It feels as if he's always questing, picking away at the world he sees around him looking for answers, reasons, maybe just trying to find a substance behind the facade of daily life... or maybe I'm projecting my own struggles on to him, hopefully, he won't mind. In many ways, this is what makes Sad Lovers such an interesting proposition. That his search feels real must in part come from the sense he appreciates the tensions of living a relatively mundane life (don't most of us?) in the upside down world we currently inhabit. His efforts to cope with the passing of time and the way we deal with the past, seem vivid and real, it's as if he's tossing and turning in a semi-dream state on the edge of an understanding that always remains just out of reach.

Throughout Tony McGuinness' guitars weave a cocoon of exquisitely anxious beauty, but flex and stretch with restrained power simmering just below the surface. Will Hicks can no longer be considered a newcomer to the band and his keyboard contributions achieve that difficult art of colouring and shading without dominating. All that leaves is for the final post-punk essential: a subtle, intuitive rhythm section that understands the real meaning of synergy, step forward Ian Gibson and Nigel Pollard.

The mood created across these 12 tracks encapsulates those moments that exist when you feel pushed to the side of your own life, locked in a space where doubt and questions are how you pass the time. If that sounds overly serious then it's important to say that this band are far too good at what they do to ever simply wallow in nonspecific angst. There's a lightness of touch running through Sad Lovers' work that means they avoid the traps some of their peers occasionally fall into. A perfect example of that restraint can be found in the beatifically eerie instrummental, Witches, suggesting an alternate world where the band has a lucrative sideline providing evocative soundtrack pieces for a suitably haunting Netflix series.

I appreciate making a record in these music business 'end times' takes determination and must involve limited expectations in terms of financial reward, above all it requires a true love for making music. Thankfully Mission Creep is great evidence of what can still be achieved. I've said it before but the band provides entry to a very precise world of their own design with its own reference points and rewards, as a result, this album will thankfully be treasured by the knowing few for long to come.

Arguably some parallels exist with another long-running cult act operating in a similar musical zone; And Also the Trees. Both bands still ridiculously underrated, featuring unique guitarists plus distinctive frontmen, they also each seem to possess a strong sense of place running through their work. But where AATT are drawn back time and again to the rural, Sad Lovers seem to inhabit and soundtrack the indistinct 'edgelands' of the world both physical and emotional, where there are no easy answers other than that life is a struggle with the knowledge that happiness is fleeting. As Garce sings in Uncharted Islands, the sunset, however perfect, never lasts. At least along the way you can retreat into this beautiful melancholy.

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