Album Review: The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years by The Wild Swans (2011) (Occultation Recordings)

My Dad died last year aged 76. He was a good man. Or so I thought, until I reached pub age, where alcohol would loosen his tongue to reveal a character that was only ‘saved’ by meeting my mother. I used to love his stories though. It was precious male bonding time, the sort that only alcohol can truly secure.

This album has a similar sonic essence. In this, the first release since the early 1990’s, front man Paul Simpson, the only remaining member from the original line up, delivers stories with a northern wit and as sense of comfortable trust born from a laconic style that engenders a sense of unequivocal authenticity. Obviously he should know his subject matter with tracks such as Chloroform, Liquid MercuryIn Secret and several others lamenting the decline of his beloved home city of Liverpool (UK).

In fact the vocals are the main foundation of this album with tracks such as The Bluebell Wood (see above) and the absolutely superb English Electric Lighting (see below) delivered with the smooth vocal deliberation and theatricality of Ian McCulloch / Echo & The Bunnymen mixed with the warm social commentary and warmth of Martin Newell‘s latter day solo work. They are an absolutely perfect marriage with the jangled guitar work that flirts around the story lines.

If Simpson’s lyrics and vocal delivery are the absolute essence behind the brilliance of the album, the gap between brilliance and total magnificence is transcended by the general chiming guitar work that belongs to the better mid 90’s Britpop era bands when they occasionally let their lad culture facades slip and embraced a bit of melody.

In general bands who were previously successful tend to, in the most polite of terms, have “quality issues” when they return after a lengthy impasse. Perhaps these bands have simply had their moment and their time has just slipped away as they struggle to adjust to a new culture? Perhaps the ‘young memories’ of their now middle-aged fan base have become clouded by the mists of time and the new enthusiasm caused by weightier wallets filled with genuine disposable income affects the judgment of how good they ‘really’ were in the first place?

Either way, none of this applies to The Wild Swans as they are one of possibly two handfuls of bands that I can think of that have come back with a degree of relevance that totally eclipses their previous work.

If I had a section on this blog for ‘classics’ this album would most surely be in it…oh there you go I do now !

Artist Links for Peter Simpson

Label Links


Other label information

Also one version release on the Kitten Charmer label

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