Album Review – Birling Gap by Catenary Wires (2021) (Skep Wax Records) (Shelflife Records)

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I lose ‘Facebook friends’ with a regularity that I just don’t give enough shits about to find in any way alarming. 
The latest mass wrath I incurred was on a school reunion page, in which my 80s schoolmates were wibbling on about how much better behaved ‘we’ were as teenagers. compared to today’s crop (i.e our kids)  This seemed strange, as I know that many of them were absolute scrotebags, primarily because they were being such with me.
When I pointed out that I was much happier about ‘our kids’ cell phone obsession, than I ever would be if they had engaged in our 15 year old habits of vandalism, drinking cheap cider behind a cricket pavillion, fighting at the football, under-age sex and smoking, I was met with a fierce resistance, that thankfully stopped short of actually denying the scrotiness that my school / council estate tended to engage in.
Birling Gap has a similar feel, as the continued union of Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher of Heavenly, Talulah Gosh and Tender Trap fame, take time out out to expose the similar misremembered contradictions that surround them, among certain sections of their now middle-aged peers.
Always engulfed in the sort of indie-pop meets (or never quite meets) twee persuasions, that evoke the warmest of everyman, indie-chic machinations and essences of jangled riffs that are steeped in 80s and 90s retro, this The Catenary Wires project, sees the duo at their most perfectly sardonic.
At their lyrical very best, Three Wheeled Car barely conceals their disdain of parts of a  generation that led to racist debacle that is Brexi. It portays an older couple so rooted in attitudinal dysfunction that they almost become a parody of themselves, as they drive out to a cliff edge to snipe away at the imagined foreign foes their vote helped vanquish…
 
We will drive out to the coast
in our three-wheeled car
Park close to the cliff edge
We will gaze out to see
We’ll conjure up old enemies
And feel safe and warm
…whilst revelling in the hilarity of the faux superiority still believed in by the last generation that still to a  sense of ‘Rule Brittania’ and re-inforcing it with a wanton Thatcher reference point, that even manages to put her in the same company as another strong woman who fought the foreign invaders, Queen Boudica:
 
Do you know your history?
Yeh, from Boudica up to the Grantham shop-owner
It’s part of you it’s part of me
Misremember the past, it’s our national persona
Similarly, Canterbury Lanes casts an even more barbed jibe at the Brexit generation who revel in being a product of their upbringing and have a determination to make everyone pay for it:
 
The schools and churches of our birth
Tower over us, say what we’re worth
And all the beauty and the bells won’t set us free
We’re all enslaved by their sweet harmony
We’re all enslaved by their sweet harmony
Whilst the album is filled with inferences of the above little Britain (even the Birling Gap title is a well know southernly look out point in Britain, that invites us to cast a cautious eye of foreign invaders!) tracks such as the celebration of the feeling of young love in Alpine and Mirroball, represent a more appealing and indeed true, evocation of what the teens of the 80s should really be reminiscing about, as they are engulfed in the current day reality of finding their reading glasses.
Mirrorball, partcularly evokes all that was precious about the long last art of the school / church / youth club disco, that we all went to. All burgundy sta-press, new romantic highlights and new electronic experimentation, these were the places our first love rejected us at, but we now revel in such quaint pain.
 
Be Jason to my Kylie
Sure, if you’ll be Wah! Heat to my Wylie
Yeah, I’m happy to. I wish we’d come here sooner
Yes, me too
But we were far too young then, far too cool
These two have always been musically prolific and even more so recently with the recent Swansea Sound releases with Hue Williams. However, there is just something about this album that just stands out from their always brilliant norm.
 

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2 comments

  1. Great review… I’m hearing strong (and wonderful) echoes of The Beautiful South and Bell & Sebasitan. And I can’t help thinking of the video for Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” video with respect to “Three Wheeled Car.”

    Liked by 1 person

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