Words such as “timeless” and “classic” are banded around all too freely these days but when a band is working with the very generic building blocks of contemporary music, it isn’t too much of a stretch to describe their sound thus.
Opening salvo, On Concrete, offers up some hot-to-trot, solid rhythm and blues and in a way that is a perfect hub to which the spokes of their musical wheel are secured, it says something about their points of reference, as well as the skill, solidity and deftness of their playing. But it is also only the initial springboard from which to dive into an album that weaves diverse generic threads and wanders a number of stylistic pathways.
Coal In the Hole takes us down a bluesy, Americana route, APB plays a straighter R’n’B bat and Square Peg grinds out some raw and resonant guitar work to balance the sweet, folky delivery of Chris Cox’s vocal work. And that may indeed highlight the dynamic at play here – clean limbed, acoustic songs with at least one foot in a more pastoral and folkish camp being rounded out and rocked up but without losing the inherent delicacy and accessibility at their heart.
And this delicacy is best experienced on Incurable Disease which wanders some slightly psychedelic pastures and which would fit right in to a George Harrison back catalogue or the narrative driven 3rd of November, which delivers as much space, atmosphere and anticipation as it does actual words and notes.
These are the musical threads that run through the very heart of contemporary pop, the same raw fibres that run back through the likes of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and the pub rock era, right back to the embryonic days of rock and roll, the beatnik era, blues revivals and birth of modern jazz, and beyond into the primordial crucibles that first forged those sounds.
Even when the guitars riffs are being shot gunned around and the beat is driving the song towards the finishing line, the songs retain a wonderful integrity, there is no showboating here, no overplaying or ego massaging, just a layering of the required elements to build a succession of textures. Sometimes those textures lock together to form rigidity and solidness, sometimes they are just a swirl of coloured smoke, intangible and transient but always they are necessary. Cloth has been cut economically and expertly in the making of this album.
The Missing Persians are the perfect reminder of a few salient points. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, rock and roll isn’t strictly a young man’s game, that music doesn’t have to kick down the generic fences and that it doesn’t always have to change the world. Sometimes it is enough to just make that world a more enjoyable place…and probably some metaphor about erecting trellis and climbing plants…I haven’t quite worked that one out yet.
Maybe it also sends the message that despite the well-timed release of this, their second album, a Missing Persian is for life, not just for Christmas.