Sunday, January 27, 2013

Northern songs: I Am Kloot's Let It All In

Viewers and listeners to the BBC's national and international services may have noticed recently a distinct reorientation of the accents delivering the news.

This is the result of the BBC, in its ridiculously ultra-orthdadox political correctness, moving all of its staff to Manchester owing to its output being, apparently, too London-centric, and its presenters too plummy to "connect" with the rest of the country.

Clearly, this lack of regional awareness was the root-cause of Britain's cultural fragmentation, urban dysfunction, family breakups, riots, crime spikes and the recession.

Anyway, as a result of this relocation, any BBC refuseniks who preferred to stay in London, have been replaced by Salford locals. Thus, the 10 O'Clock News now commences with "Eh-up, chuck, here's news 'eadlines, read by our kid".

Recentering Britain's cultural heart in Manchester probably does nothing for people living in Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Plymouth or Newcastle, but you have to appreciate the gesture, futile as it truly is.

On the plus-side, though, the increased prevalence of Mancunian has added to the familiarity of Manchester bands singing in their natural accent. In the 1950s and 1960s, pop stars affected American accents. In the 50s it didn't matter if you were a gorblimey Cockernee knees-up merchant like Tommy Steele, the American accent represented everything shiny, new and aspirational about the country across the Atlantic. And if you consider it, Mick Jagger would have sounded absurd singing Little Red Rooster in his ever-so-slightly posh Dartford delivery.

More progressive performers didn't play that game, however. David Bowie has mostly sung in a voice that reflects his south-east London roots, from the prototype Mockney on the Anthony Newley-influenced novelty The Laughing Gnome right up to the surprise new single Where Are We Now?, varying only in pitch and tone.

Perhaps the best - and to be acclaimed the most - example of a refusal to adopt the Yankee twang is that of The Beatles. Despite the heavy influence of Elvis and the Glasgow-born Lonnie Donegan on their early repertoire, the Fabs became the voice of north-west England, spreading the region to the rest of Britain and, subsequently, the world.

So it's no great stretch that I make between John, Paul, George and Ringo and I Am Kloot's John Bramwell. On their superb, sixth album Let It All In, there is no question of the band's Manchester roots and the common denominator they share with all north-western bands - Oasis, James, The La's, The Smiths - an uncanny gift for melody.

It's nigh on impossible to avoid comparison between the Kloots and their Liverpudlian ancestors, in particular: Let It All In's sublime Masquerade really could have been on Revolver, Bramwell sounding eerily like John Lennon. Likewise the closing track Forgive Me These Reminders even sounds unintentionally, like Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again (Naturally), though it should be noted that O'Sullivan was born in Swindon.

Let It All In is blessed with delightful breadth, depth and texture. The opener, Bullets, sets off with a Kurt Weill swing before ripping up a seering rockabilly guitar solo. The title track, with a gentle acoustic guitar lilt similar to Athlete's Wires, finds Bramwell unashamedly Manc-ing it up with "I can't hear the words for the sound of the information, I 'aven't got a job, or an 'obby or an occupation."

Hold Back The Night unveils more of the album's subtly varying topography, with a melodrama, ambience and progression reminiscent of Portishead's Glory Box, opening into a theatrically glorious string-based middle eight. It is here you also recognise the production skills of Elbow's Guy Garvey and Craig Potter, old friends of the band, who've helped craft one of the best records I suspect we'll hear this year.

Scallywag tales of teenage mischief in Mouth On Me, the romantic gentility of Shoeless (which closes with another Beatley conclusion) and the sparsity of Even The Stars, which could easily be from the Richard Hawley canon. There's a beautifully bittersweet nature to I Am Kloot's compositions, songs that sit on the softer edge of acerbic without become excessively wry.

Some Better Day fits this bill perfectly, a gentle song with a cut to it that you suspect must end up as the theme tune to a sitcom someday. Think of Half A World Away and The Royal Family.

The Elbow touch returns on the album's penultimate track, These Days Are Mine, the kind of building, bassline-thudding anthem that builds to a stadium-filling chorus. And just as Elbow have made it OK to like uplifting, arena-friendly music in these depressed, repressed times, I Am Kloot have made a record of glorious warmth and comfort.

Releasing it in January, at the outbreak of a fearsome blast of winter, was an inspired choice. Forget buying a onesie - just buy Let It All In and curl up on the sofa with a cheeky bottle of rich red wine.

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