Album Review – Broken Biscuits by Corin Ashley (2017) (Murray Hill Records)
In the late 1980’s / early 1990’s I had a bit of a crush. Not a crush in the way that teenage kids get all besotted about similar spotty youths and plaster their bedroom walls with all manner of memorabilia, but a crush that was a tad more subtle and merely involved ensuring I watched as much Dawson Creek and the goregeous Katie Holmes as possible, before she was eventually whisked away on the wings of a scientology space ship by a man who was old enough to be …well me actually.
Other than my appreciation of the sheer unadulterated svelte, teeny-tiny cuteness of Miss Holmes, the other notable thing about Dawson’s Creek was that the cloying teenage angst story-lines were accentuated by a surprisingly eclectic soundtrack of largely left-field music within each episode. As such one particular episode (I think someone had been bullied, dumped or had got sick on alcopops for the umpteenth squillionth time) led me to all things Corin Ashley as I hunted down a 2001 track played in an episode called Spork by an early 2000’s power-pop band called The Pills, in which he performed lead guitar, vocalst and song writing duties for.
This in turn has led me to become something of a devotee of Ashley’s solo projects and in my opinion this album is his strongest work yet. Initially the album opens with a very The Pills like track in Little Crumbles, although it has far more layers of melodies in the back ground that successfully fight their way through the organised mayhem that typifies the best of power-pop. However with the exception of my favourite track, the erudite but massive Broken Biscuit #6 – The Cookie Crumbles (see below), this is a raucous exception to an album which has far more concentrated melodic sensibilities than his previous solo releases.
As such the fulcrum of this album revolves around that The Beatles off centre, skew pop essence. It is a sound that can make you sound silly if it is not done with enough hap-hazard attention to ramshackle detail so that it is does not sound at all processed.
As is usually the case with this consummate professional a number of tracks, especially the sublime Eleanor Rigby-esque Edison’s Medicine (see below) and the Strawberry Fields essence of Broken Biscuits #9: Plaster and Pins somehow manage to get the ratio between the muted under production that Martin Newell / The Cleaners From Venus excel in, whilst at the same time letting the clarity of the mid-tempo Beatles-esque melodies be omnipotent.
The brilliance of the album is all the more startling considering the fact that Ashley, despite only being in his late 40’s, was unfortunate enough to suffer a stroke in 2015 which left him paralysed down the left hand side and unable to sing. The fact that the remaining half of this album was completed after he has spent a year recuperating and learning how to use his left arm and sing again, is testament to the strength of the man and his genuine love for music. A love that is felt coursing through every note of every track on this album.