Lightships Electric Cables (2012)

Lightships Electric Cables
Location: Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Album release: April 2, 2012
Record Label: Domino Records
01. Two Lines   3:54
02. The Warmth Of The Sun   4:45
03. Muddy Rivers   3:26
04. Sweetness In Her Spark   2:40
05. Every Blossum   4:55
06. Silver And Gold   3:32
07. Girasol   3:43
08. Stretching Out   3:26
09. Photosynthesis   4:26
10. Sunlight To The Dawn   5:58           // Members: The Lightships band is Dave McGowan (guitar - Teenage Fanclub), Brendan O'Hare (drums - from the first incarnation of Teenage Fanclub), Tom Crossley (flute - International Airport and The Pastels) and Bob Kildea (bass - Belle & Sebastian) // Facebook:
Review by Michael James Hall on March 30, 2012
¶  Gerard Love has, for more than twenty years, been a key figure in one of the best bands in the world, Teenage Fanclub. Though rarely at the cutting edge of fashion nor at the coalface of innovation, the Scottish Big Star lovers have, fairly consistently, made great records full of tremendously tuneful songs for more than two decades. Love is hugely instrumental in their appeal, the bassist/vocalist being responsible for beloved classics like ‘Sparky’s Dream’, ‘Radio’ and ‘Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe In Anything’. Though a long old stroll away from the vibrant thrash of their early gems like ‘Everything Flows’ and wild versions of Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ they’ve managed in the latter part of their career to mature gracefully and while they approach both middle age and the middle of the road they’ve never lost their grace nor their collective ear for a brilliant pop hook.
¶  Sadly, as evidenced by last year’s Johnny project which saw fellow Fanny Norman Blake disappoint hugely in collaboration with Euros Childs, it seems that outside of the Fanclub the individual components fail to operate as precisely or efficiently, nor do they manage to stave off the onset of musical blandness anywhere near as effectively.
¶  Lightships, Love’s first foray into the solo project world, have made, in the shape of Electric Cables, a very, very dull record indeed. Backed by fellow Glaswegians plucked from the ranks of The Pastels, Belle and Sebastian and even Brendan O’ Hare from the earliest days of Teenage Fanclub one would expect a sweet and tuneful set of songs, and while both attributes can be ascribed to much of the record it is, nonetheless, an exercise in music so gentle, so ethereal and so very, very quiet as to pass by almost unnoticed.
There are good moments, such as the lachrymose meditation on old age and times past ‘Warmth of the Sun’ which matches form to content perfectly – Love’s whispered notes a soft, sad delight among the xylophone chimes, clock rhythms and flute trills; and ‘Sweetness In Her Spark’ has a sense of purpose and drive lacking elsewhere, shifting out from first gear to deliver an otherworldly, romantic trip into delicate melody and neatly incisive guitar sounds.
¶  These heartwarming interludes though, are overwhelmed by a slew of songs mired in mid pace, locked in laze and, despite a tendency to sing more sweetly on repeated listens, doomed to hang in the hinterland of schmindie easy listening.
¶  Love’s lyrical concerns, which almost always seem to return to the weather and what have you – sun shining, clouds overhead, the seasons changing (there are tracks titled ‘Every Blossom’, ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘Sunlight to the Dawn’ for instance) – seem irrevocably lazy in comparison to his often beautifully clear and overtly romantic Fanclub work. This meteorological obsession does not for interesting text make. Tracks like ‘Silver and Gold’ are, again, pretty but equally lacking in bite – Love’s falsetto here almost intangible, a mere shadow of a voice. Similarly ‘Girasol’, though it buzzes a little upfront, simply marks time and trots along in a day-at-the-drizzly-beach kinda way.
¶  There’s nothing inherently bad about whimsical, shy little records that deny all forms of ego, bluster and aggression. It’s just that you’d think Love, with his years of experience, would be able to offer up a little more light and shade.  

The Line Of Best Fit

¶  It's no secret that within Domino there is a lot of love for Teenage Fanclub, and that some members of staff have a special fondness for the songs of singer, songwriter and bassist, Gerard Love.  In recent times, Gerard has been very much part of The Pastels, who operate occasional Domino imprint, Geographic.  The idea of an album of Gerard Love songs burned for a long time until eventually label enthusiasm prevailed, and Gerard agreed that it was an idea that he too was excited about.
¶  From the outset, Gerard was clear that he wanted to establish a group name for the record, a name that was evocative and ambiguous, that could somehow place the music within a slightly blurry and imagined context.  He didn't want to give the impression that the record was just about him.  Having settled on the name, Lightships, he sought out a cast of Glasgow-based friends to play on the record that was starting to take shape in his head; Dave McGowan (guitar, Teenage Fanclub), Brendan O'Hare (drums, from the first incarnation of Teenage Fanclub), Tom Crossley (flute, International Airport and The Pastels) and Bob Kildea (bass, Belle & Sebastian).
¶  Liberated by a feeling that he had complete carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, Gerard came to a realisation that the key to the sound of the record would be tremolo, delay and flute.  At times the record has the dynamics of a soundtrack, as one of Tom Crossley’s flute lines weaves into the ether and Gerard’s vocals bounce off each other.  Or, as on Sweetness In Her Spark, the group lock into a relaxed and breezy groove that demands the windows be flung open.
¶  Lightships is a name that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the music - sparkling and radiant and illuminated throughout by Love’s melodic gifts and taste for adventurous arrangements.  The overall sound, while as warm and immediate as the songs Gerard writes for Teenage Fanclub, is more free flowing and loose. Muddy Rivers is carried along on a wave of interlocked instrumentation while Photosynthesis is a hazy wash of flutes and echo.  On Silver And Gold, Gerard sings with a falsetto before a chorus of harmonies bursts into life.  With this music it’s as if he was looking to express something more personal, eccentric and introspective.
¶  Electric Cables is an album of tender, observational songs, played with an invigorating and easy sense of purpose; the sound of friends enjoying one another’s company and allowing ideas and experiments to flourish.  It's a complex and rewarding record that you'll want to keep coming back to.  Slow illumination.
¶  The album will be available on CD, vinyl and digitally.  All songs were written by Gerard Love, produced by Gerard Love and Bal Cooke.


 Image: LightshipsPic


Lightships Electric Cables (2012)