Thursday 1 February 2024

The Miserable Rich - Overcome

It's twelve years since The Miserable Rich's last album Miss You In The Days and in an era where bands make comebacks theirs was one of the most unlikely. It took tragedy, in the shape of the death of front man James de Malplaquet and his wife Sarah's first child and the healing powers of friendship, pizza and beer to get them back together in a room, initially to play a charity fundraiser and then to play around with ideas for new music. Overcome is the product of how those meetings played out, the sound of a band reconnecting with each other, recalling everything special about the band in their first incarnation but now laced with the wisdom of age and experience, new musical discoveries and a sense of purpose that the record needed to be made.

The album opens with The Ballad Of Young Finn and it's clear that whilst The Miserable Rich have retained their chamber pop style that won them many admirers in their first life, but have moved their sound forward with the advances in technology and incorporating new influences creating a intriguing and warm mixture that draws you in, de Malplaquet pleading "hold on to it, until we get there." 

Second track Crows, one of the multiple singles from the album sees them loosen the reigns a little, an airy, dreamy, even danceable song that mulls over the destruction of the planet and civilisation. Everything Bright And New continues in similar vein, the unfussy production that prevails on Overcome, allowing the songs space to breathe and seduce the listener whilst retaining the subtle intricate details of the instrumentation.

FHS is a rework of a b-side to their great lost single Anything's Possible, which, despite its ages, fits the album like a glove, with its acappella introduction before the strings kick in and then the rest of the instruments make their entry as the song moves along with layered almost echoed vocals. The album's lead single Glue deals with the aftermath of the tragedy of child loss, a heartfelt and deeply personal tale of having to stick together to overcome the horrendous emotional impact. The instrumentation is often minimal on this track allowing the words to take centre focus - "all the things you've seen, never should be seen". 

If Only strips things down, two vocals, one sung, one spoken, telling two different stories at the same time wrapped around haunting strings that really give the song an unsettling feeling but which doesn't frighten you off. Penny For has a majestic feel to it, a very slow build that accelerates as the strings kick in half way through it and de Malplaquet showing off the richness and depth to his voice as the band give it the space to breathe. 

Probably Will is the album's highlight and one of its most positive moments, turning round tragedy with a much-needed injection of optimism - "we're going to get through this and much more, yes you know we probably will" - set to piano and strings that create a link to the history of The Miserable Rich yet placing it in the context of today. It's followed by Quietly, clocking in at just over two minutes but leaving a more lasting impression, focusing on the stoaicly British condition of carrying on regardless and suppressing uncomfortable feelings and emotions - it's an arm round the shoulder that tells you that most people have been there and that you're not alone.

Taken pulls together many of the musical strands that have gone before it, the delicious piano and duelling and layered vocals creating the core of the song. De Malplaquet's vocals and harmonies draw the listener in and make you feel like you're at the centre before there's a child's voice talking over the instrumental break before the song dances off into the distance under its own free will. 

The vinyl version of the album concludes with We All Know, laden with an imposing piano intro that sets the tone for a song of communion, de Malplaquet repeating "we all know how..." before listing off a series of shared experiences that many will be able to relate to before concluding in a warm dreamy comfort blanket of instrumentation layered on the vocals that are subsumed into it.

An additional track is available on the download - Poem For Suzanne - a beautifully personal dedication by de Malplaquet to his sister Suzanne who he also lost during the period leading up to the band coming back together - "I cannot imagine how my life would be if that star had never been around to shine her light on me" - set to a piano whose mood perfectly matches the song's emotional content.

Overcome is a genuine triumph from a band that those who followed thought had been lost to the place where bands that never quite got the recognition they deserved reside. The album is a labour of love, created from a space of still having something to say rather than trying to somehow make a breakthrough and career in an industry where connections are often more important than quality. The warmth and love between the band seeps from every note and word of the album, in many ways it's a catharsis, a way of trying to come to terms with some of the most horrible things humans have to endure, but in others it's a celebration of still being here, of being surrounded by love and friendship. 

The Miserable Rich's website can be found here.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Overcome can be ordered from their Bandcamp.


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