Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Help Stamp Out Loneliness

by Al Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2011-05-09

Can you handle a singer who sounds almost exactly like Nico, but isn't Nico? Can you imagine how someone who is not German or boning half of The Velvet Underground could inhabit that exquisite, mournful voice? These are questions that you will have to answer while listening to Help Stamp Out Loneliness, and you may let it consume you, or you may get past it fairly quick.

HSOL are a Manchester band who aren't anywhere near as twee as they seem to think they are. They do realise their singer sounds like Nico: opener 'Cottonopolis and Promises' even contains the lyric "Won't you let me be your Nico?" and sounds like 'Contender' by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and 'Sleep Tte Clock Around' by Belle & Sebastian. But you can sound like those bands and still not be twee if your singer has a certain Germanic aloofness. 'Angelyne' is a fine pop song with the kind of simple vocal hook ("Oh Angeline/ Oh Angelyne/ Am I just wasting my time?") that doesn't come along every day. 'Record Shop' is even better: singer D Lucille Campbell begs her too-cool-for-school lover to show her some affection over sparkling Marr-esque guitar - it sounds like much-missed one-album wonders The Organ ie, really great. There's a perfect, climactic bridge in which Campbell's desperation soars ("You can call the doctors/ Call the cops!") even as her timbre remains inscrutably constant.

The mid-section of the album is a bit less impressive: 'A Ghost with a Hammer in His Hand' has a wicked A-ha style synth riff but not much else; and the songs that immediately follow it are pretty but not especially engaging. The best songs, as with Nico (argh, the N-word again!) are the ones that contrast that strident voice with doubt and heartache. Like 'Me, Sola & C', a resigned lament to suspected infidelity. The way Campbell sings "She would rub your leg whenever I left the room" is heartbreaking, even though she's just singing it the same as every other line. Adele, Mariah Carey: you could learn something from this.

'Tracy Tracy' is a deeply lovely ballad, whose sombre infatuation is leavened by the odd flash of humour: "Tracy I was bored/ I carved a swastika on your headboard", sings Campbell, then a heavenly choir kicks in - there're shooting-star synths that take you back to that first, confused über-crush - "A cosmic shower/ isn't half as bright as you". If all of the ongoing 80s revival was as dreamy as this, I'd be its biggest fan.

HSOL don't perhaps hit the heights as much as you'd like them to after an initial flurry of brilliance, and there's nothing original here, but the influences are impeccable and it's a confident, sometimes thrilling debut.

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*Tiergarten . . .

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Thanks for pointing that out!

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