Long-awaited follow-up to H.M.S. Fable delivers
They’re a luckless lot, Shack. They made Waterpistol, an album that might have been one of the defining recordings of 1991, had the studio not burnt down, destroying the master tapes. Then came H.M.S. Fable, finally written and recorded following a period of smack addiction and subsequent detoxification. It was greeted with critical hallelujahs?but disagreements over the quality of its promotion led to a squandering of any momentum they achieved. Like fellow Byrdsian Liverpudlians The La’s, it seemed improbable they’d ever record again.
Now, finally, brothers Mick and John Head et al are back on a new label with an LP recorded in just six weeks and it shows?in the best possible sense. There’s a rawness, a ripeness, a spontaneity about Here’s Tom With The Weather that hasn’t been destroyed by multitracking or studio varnishing. Terms like “proper music” and “real songs” are usually the last refuge of the Luddite. These are “proper” and “real” with all the organic, halcyon beauty that that entails.
The opener, “As Long As I’ve Got You”, for instance, with its distant accordions, wafts in like a breath of sea air, or like hearing Simon & Garfunkel for the first time.
“Soldier Man”, too, with its meandering guitar break, showers on you like bracingly damp, strangely uplifting weather. “Byrds Turn To Stone”, with its subtle, semi-acoustic blowback, shows that Shack aren’t just strummers, but possess a fine gift for arrangement emphasised again on the strings that weave unsteadily through “The Girl With The Long Brown Hair”, or on the wistful “Miles Apart”, one of a clutch of fine John Head compositions here (brother Mick pens the rest).
With the seedy, “Waiting For The Man”-style scenario of “On The Terrace”, the salsa flavourings of “Meant To Be”, and what sound like allusions to Patty Hearst on “On The Streets Tonight”, this album covers a range of lyrical ground and moods before returning to the heavily qualified “bliss” of the uneasy, closing lullaby “Happy Ever After”. They’ve given a lot, Shack?now it’s time for them to take.