Stories From the North –  Echoglass (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Around this time last year I delved into the wonderful world of Echoglass via a sonic blast through their back catalogue. It became obvious very quickly that they possessed many traits that I love. They are masters of the lyrical hook and melodic infectiousness. They see genres as being colours on a musical palette, happy to paint with the full range of hues and shades rather than just keep following the same template. They are also confusing being snappy, immediate, sullen, raw, brooding, reflective and celebratory, often in the same song! Work that one out. And amongst all of this are songs with a sense of place. As the title makes clear these are narratives and tales, memories and recollections from their own neck of the woods, The North.

I’ve alluded to a northern literary tradition being explored in Echoglass’ lyrics before and the stories being woven here have a sort of Keith Waterhouse feel to them, but instead of portraying Billy Liar as a dreamer set on a career in the big smoke, this is him a generation or so later going to gigs, trawling pubs looking for love, or at least some sort of affection, and exploring the same loves, longings and losses that every other adolescent in the western world has experienced. Kitchen sink drama and the loneliness of the long distance raver.

What Echoglass does so well is write brilliantly accessible songs without seeming to conform too closely to the obvious. You hear touches of The Beautiful South or Deacon Blue in the small town sagas and both bands echo (pun intended) in their glorious boy-girl harmonies. But beyond that they very much walk their own path drawing on pop, rock and some more dance floor inspired sounds to get their raw ingredients.

Youth sets the scene, groovesome and brooding low ends covered with reflective, honest and sweet vocals, a rallying cry for the stark realities of being young whilst Sett End is a brilliant depiction of an energetic rave gathering, the feeling of wilful abandonment, of putting the reality of life behind you for a few hours but again delivered via cleverly woven strands of sweeping cinematics and brazen guitars.

Peppermint Place and Belgrave Road also have intimate yet relatable tales of formative years to tell and perhaps it is because I have recently been enthralled by a documentary about the band, there is an over all feeling to this e.p. of the songs coming from a very similar place as The Go-Betweens musical mindset. A world away geographically but that same small town tales, the same deft blend of pop catch, folk attention to detail and occasional rock muscle. And like those mercurial antipodeans, possibly “too intelligent to ever deliver an obvious chart hit.” 

Perhaps a career of brilliant story telling, cult fame and unbelievably infectious music is to be their lot. And you know, I bet they would be okay with that.

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