The Granite Shore is the project of Occultation Records curator Nick Halliwell. This is a proper concept album, chronicling the life and death of a rock band as a metaphor for the passing of time and the nature of regret.
It is a thoughtful and complex undertaking, starting with the enigmatic castle pictured on the sleeve, the long quote from Chaucer’s Man Of Law’s Prologue balanced against a quote from Ian Hunter(a minor hero of mine since seeing him practically dragged off stage for starting late and over-running at a festival) of Mott The Hoople and a tempting menu of guest players, mostly acoustic.
To the music, it is divided into two 5 song sections ‘In Public’ and ‘Behind The Scenes’. The opening two songs are rich arrangements with buoyant and idealistic lyrics; ‘Nine Days’ Wonder’ is positively jaunty and suggests that ‘I would dance from here to Norwich in the rain, as long as crowds came out to see me in my triumph and my pain’. Notwithstanding the low annual rainfall in East Anglia, the optimistic lyrical sentiment soon starts to go a bit sour as ‘The Management’ gets entwined with the band and there is also tension with the fan/band relationship. All of this sung to a backdrop of pure sonic joy as the carefully balanced instrumentation glides beneath the melancholy vocal.
Side Two delves deeper behind the façade, with ‘Recorded Sound’ an early highlight with guitar arpeggios and achingly beautiful brass textures. The alcoholic drummer dies, to be replaced with a drum machine in ‘Keeping Time’ then legal wrangling and finally a long meditation by the burned out narrator reminiscing, when it is all over.
It is a triumphant and ambitious piece of work, introspective in parts but the vision and musical realisation of the concept has to be admired. Like Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ it cannot be a relentlessly cheery tale but the sombre words deserve study, as repeated plays of the music continue to reward the listener.