Wednesday 25 November 2015

Luckless - Vindication Blues

Vindication Blues is Luckless's second album. Originally released back in July 2014, it's now being issued on vinyl in the UK for the first time by London label Beautiful Strange and as it's only a recent discovery for us the reissue is a good excuse to review an album that would have topped my chart of albums of 2015 had it been released this year.

What immediately strikes you on first listen to Vindication Blues is its coherence and continuity as an album. Like all the greatest long players it feels like a record that the artist has put their life and soul and every waking minute into. It's a record that touches on many different subject matters, changes pace from brooding sombre and sparse pieces to angry betrayed rock with sharp edges that are designed to cut through the song's protagonist.

There's a couple of themes running throughout the album's eleven songs - the break-up of a relationship, as suggested by the title, and travelling as New Zealander Ivy who is sometimes Luckless herself and other times leader of the band seems to be incessantly on the road - and sometimes at the same time.  Take the opening line to the whole album as Telephone Song muses that "I reach for the telephone, there's gotta be a use for those windswept wires that hum and moan, and I recall the way I said goodbye, that I want to be alone, I'm supposed to be on my own." The second song Port In A Storm, one of the more upbeat tracks on the album musically with a thrilling pulsating driving guitar sound has both themes as it talks of driving through tunnels escaping the "place that despises me." The relationship that broke down is explored further in the lead song from the album When You Asked Her To Stay which delves into the way couples try to post sticking plaster on relationships until one can't take the strain any more - "the truth is dead, but it never made us happy when we kept it around." It's a very public catharsis set to music.

The theme returns to travel and solitude on the insistent Road Retreats that declares "Strange time to be driving through the king country, solitary on the highway and my mind keeps running" before Ivy picks over the remains of the broken relationship and concludes "I've left nothing behind, only ashes and bones, and I carry my lies behind the wheel alone."

That theme runs into the song that follows, the seven-minute Better Than Being Blue, a heart-aching simple yet revelatory exploration and final burial of the relationship. It's an outpouring of so many pent-up feelings and delivered with a tone to Ivy's voice that makes the listener feel like they're living it themselves, an exceptionally rare achievement for any songwriter. It moves into an instrumental section that feels like some small respite even though the sadness and despair is still hanging from every note.

Dry Eyes follows and clocks in at half the length and picks the pace of the record up somewhat, but what this does is concentrate the tension into a lo-fi guitar sound and starts to see a turn around in mood as Ivy declares at the end that "I'm so sick of apologizing."

Cities Of Salt is so fragile that it's on the edge of breakdown, half-spoken, half-sung, but with a haunting melodic edge that sends shivers through you at points before about three minutes in changing tack into a fuzzy guitar scrawl for around twenty seconds before continuing as if that distraction had never happened. It's so raw that you can almost imagine the weight lifting off Ivy's shoulders as she expels the demons by way of the song's lyrics.

Paperskin has a restless tetchy guitar riff running through its three minutes that combines with lyrics directed to one of the ex's later conquests. It's laced with rancour and no small measure of bitterness declaring "so if you see him, say I past him by, say I passed him over, but don't say I cried."

The mood swings that make Vindication Blues such compelling listening continue as All I Want To Sleep is a restless drifting tale of insomnia, the desire to leave troubles and worries behind in sleep, but being unable to do so. Comfort Hotel is a reflection on what's happened earlier in the record, a wistful look back, casting aside regrets and starting to deal with the fallout of the break up on the road in hotel rooms.

The final song starts with a solitary piano, a soft voice that gives away a broken heart behind it, a laying bare of every single emotion in the body, those of regret at what's gone past "I weep for the union, I weep for old times" before concluding "but as hard as I try, my heart is still broken, let this love pass me by." As from the start of the record, it's Ivy revealing all her deepest darkest emotions publicly.

What is so special about Vindication Blues is that by the end you feel that you've lived every single minute of Ivy's experiences and that there's a bond been created between you and her despite never having met because of the honesty, the raw detailing of feelings and experiences throughout the album and the way the music accentuates perfectly the emotional outpourings and confessions that escape from her from the very first bars of the record to the last.

Vindication Blues is available now on CD and download from Luckless's Bandcamp and on vinyl from label Beautiful Strange's Bandcamp.

Luckless play the following dates in December

1st - Glasgow Vale Bar
2nd - Edinburgh Henry's Cellar Bar
4th - Brighton The Marwood
6th - Birmingham Tower Of Song
7th - Stroud The Prince Albert
8th - Frome Cheese And Grain
9th - Swindon The Beehive
11th - Bristol Kino Basement
12th - London The Harrison
13th - Bath The Royal Oak

Ivy Rossiter image taken from official website - photo credit Sabin Holloway

Luckless's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

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