A track by track review of Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon, the sixth studio album from Indie trio The Wave Pictures. I am a big fan of the 2013 double album ‘City Forgiveness’ and after a few listens and seeing them live this one is different, but right up there too.
1. Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon. What a great opener, driving bass and drums, surreal and evocative lyric, imagine driving through the desert at night. This track features rhythm guitar from cult artist Billy Childish, the main collaborator and co-writer on this album.
2. I Could Hear The Telephone(3 Floors Above Me). This was the first song played when I saw the band recently, now released as a single. This track highlights the trademark guitar of Dave Tattersall along with some Beatle-esque flourishes and words of minor domestic paranoia. It works its way into your head and stays there.
3. Katie. A solid bass riff from Franic Rozycki, generally a bit heavier and intense, relieved with a bit of glockenspiel. Another two animals in the lyrics, there are a lot on this album…
4. At Dusk You Took Down The Blinds. The title says it all, a quiet love song, gradually turning in on itself. Sparse guitar and light drumming, very effective.
5. All The Birds Lined Up Dot Dot Dot. A rolling bass and guitar and interlocking drum patterns from Jonny Helm. Again the lyric has a feel of (gently) impending doom.
6. Frogs Sing Loudly In The Ditches. Followed by ‘…dragonflies hover overhead’, a title inspired by a mild warning sign at a country hotel! A bit of Half Man Half Biscuit sentiment creeping in here lyrically and plenty going on musically.
7. Sinister Purpose. The first of two cover versions of Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, a rocky edge to this one.
8. Green River. More bluesy this time, with lots of harmonica added to the mood.
9. Fake Fox Fur Pillowcase. Another catchy original, one of my favourites featuring personal insecurities described over big chords and hefty bass and drums.
10. The Fire Alarm. A similar pounding feel to this track, with nightmarish images of nature and instead of the phone ringing it is now the fire-alarm that disturbs.
11. The Goldfish. A superb showcase for the bass, a strong chorus and the singer again mildly tortured, this time by a deserted room and a disquieting fish.
12. We Fell Asleep In The Blue Tent. Juju Claudius adds contrasting backing vocals to this intricate tale of growing up. A summery and nostalgic set of images.
13. Pea Green Coat. The first single from the album, harmonica and sharp chords give it a Wilko Johnson vibe and make the garment in the title sound as cool as it could possibly be.
Another strong line-up for a sold out evening at The Portland, starting with Ben Garnet, otherwise known as The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, a regular in Cambridge (and on this site) with his guitar/random sounds/voice/laptop combination. A large audience was already in the venue, reacting well to the electronica, triggered effects and manipulated vocals of hours of painstaking studio crafting being let loose to run free in the live performance. Older songs ‘Testing the Theory…’ and ‘See This Through’ sound as good as ever as does the heavy bass and denser instrumentation of new track ‘False Economy’. Apparently new experiments in stereo are pushing the capacity of the laptop (Bill) beyond its limits but it looks like this creative partnership will run and run.
Five piece Cambridge band Violet Woods are featured elsewhere on this site and it was good to see that their live versions of tracks from the debut album have grown in stature. It was a nicely paced set, contrasting the dark mysteries of ‘Electric Fascination’ with the simpler pastoral pleasures of ‘Here’ and ‘Driftwood Royalty’. The band musically blends moody 12-string electric guitar with bold retro organ notes as second guitar, bass and drums all make a major contribution. The finale of the album and live set is ‘The River’ an epic track with a haunting vocal from Xavier Watkins, then eventually all the instruments break loose, with feedback and the drum kit flayed until it sounds like it is being thrown down the stairs…
The Wave Pictures are a likeable and unassuming trio, their sparse tight sound and onstage interplay creates a captivating and engrossing show. Having formed in 1998, they have recorded many albums as themselves or collaborations with a variety of performers, also they have covered songs by cult outsider American singer Daniel Johnston.
Complex lyrics featuring relationships, domestic trivia, assorted wildlife and name checks of Johnny Cash, Tracey Emin and The Real Slim Shady(!) are delivered mainly by guitarist Dave Tattersall with drummer Jonny Helm leading on some songs. Along with bassist Franic Rozycki the band are accomplished musicians, their trademark indie rock is clear sounding and intricate guitar solos interspersed with busy basslines and solid drums.
There are also departures in musical styles, the polyrhythmic shuffle of ‘Before This Day’ was an early highlight. At times I was reminded of the minimal relaxed sound and lyrical concerns of Jonathan Richman, another live performer with the ability to have the audience losing themselves in his unique musical world. Soon to be released album Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon featured strongly, then the show ended with requests, all warmly received by the very attentive audience.