Meursault is a growing thing. The Scottish band that is, rather than the rather tasty Burgundy. They’re not named after the wine, but esoterically after an Albert Camus character. Back in 2008, the band was pretty much the vehicle for Neil Pennycook with a revolving cast of friends. Things firmed up and they are by now a five piece, although the singular voice is Neil’s. I’ve usually got a knuckle draggingly low threshold for bearded folkies and yet I can listen to this guy on repeat all day; it’s his ability to convey angst without mawkishness that does it. The band as a totality are sufficiently on the twisted side of mainstream alt-folk (if such an oxymoronic thing exists), to maintain interest, in a similar cultural vein to the excellent Castanets.
Their schtick in the past was that although it always sounded full blown, an awful lot was done via programming and samples. The move this time is to live full strings and piano, and sitting surprisingly comfortably alongside that, moments of full-on electric guitar and bass. It might have been a joking comment, but I heard rumour that Neil said he’d broken his laptop, so had to go ‘live’. Whatever, the result is mightily impressive, even as it remains way left of centre. As if to put off the casual, the weakest track is also the opener ‘Thumb’. It’s no more than an extended emotional moment, plucked strings over a repeated line “we will not be weakened anymore” which goes on three minutes too long in these attention deficient days. Thankfully, next up ‘Flittin’ more than makes up for it, voice cracking on the edge of a wail, about the romanticism of moving away then having to give in and come home because the weather wasn’t too nice. Stick with it one more track though for ‘Lament For A Teenage Millionaire’. I’ve had the debate in the past of music as poetry, and I’ll nail my colours to the mast, anything that comes up with “his hands were like mirrors and his eyes they were ornaments” surely qualifies. Later on in ‘Hole’ the point is more than reinforced as Neil intones “the gap between your teeth / and the words you try to speak / it will grow bigger….” without ever once sounding forced or clever.
Some may find the Scottish lament thing a little full on. For me, it remains sufficiently muted to not go over the top , and while I’ll admit to being a sucker for minor piano chords over a seaweed string of banjo, the crack in the voice seals the deal.