Reviewing music can be a bit of a lottery sometimes. It requires you to go into the unknown with ears wide open and pen poised to extrapolate the good, discuss the bad and generally work out if the world is a better place for the music at hand being in it. Such steps into sonic pastures new can be as invigoration as they are annoying, you might find your new favourite band lurking there or a reminder as to why a certain artist or genre leaves you cold. Sometimes though you receive an album by someone who has enriched your life, musically speaking, for years, who never seems to put a foot wrong and who more than makes up for the hours spent trying to find something constructive to say about a screaming metal bands juvenile antics or the derivative antics of an indie band who think that aping The Arctic Monkeys is still the way forward.
Hanging Out in Heaven is one of those moments…the bit about enrichment not the Arctic Monkeys thing….because Marty Willson-Piper as a member of The Church, All About Eve and with his more recent bands and projects, especially Noctorum, seems to be one of those artists that just naturally chimes with the sounds that, well, do it for me. And this re-release of his seminal fifth album reminds of just how great his musical legacy is.
Lush is a word I associate with the man and as Forget The Radio kicks things off that blend of Byrds-infused textures, deft layering of guitars and harmonies prove that he has always had a hankering for the psychedelic richness that is still a large part of the sonic fingerprint of his music today. Sometimes this core sound wanders into more folk territory such as the intimate and balladic Wondering, sometimes it takes the form of 60’s pastel pop as with Queen in Her Jeans and then Sanctuary takes things into a cool, late night, place that sounds as fresh today as it did twenty years ago.
Then there are tracks such as Wreck, a warped and drifting sea shanty for the modern age, the warped alt-rock of All Those Wires and the gorgeously timeless, deftly understated and wonderfully intimate You Bring Your Love To Me, all of which just underline the wide scope of songwriting and styles that the man commands.
Hanging Out in Heaven is a record that everyone should have in their collections and it is definitely the place to start if you only know him from his earlier, higher profile bands. But nostalgia and record collection box ticking aside, the main reason to have it is that it’s brilliant and when it comes down to it a record that can sell itself on such assured terms has already stumbled upon the best PR trick in the book.