I’ve done some pretty dumb things in my time – streaking naked up and down the stairway of an Italian hotel in order to win 500 lire was one of them. It seemed a princely sum at the time, but in my then alcohol induced state, what I had failed to grasp was that 500 lire was merely the equivalent of about 22 pence. Also, when I first tried to get into a pub all those years ago, and the bouncer asked me “How old are you?“, to which I replied “Fifteen.” Equally dumb – perhaps even more so. But scaling the heights of stupidity is my decision to not pay any attention to London Plane‘s excellent album New York Howl until now, several weeks after its release. Is it too late to run a review now? Probably. But hey, I’m in charge of albums around here, and it’s damn well getting one, ok?
The title track, which opens the album, starts a bit Yeah Yeah Yeahs and, aptly, has a “howling” chorus, although said refrain is more ‘Sound‘ by James than Warren Zevon‘s ‘Werewolves Of London‘. Thereafter it’s kind of all over the place, sounding like The Go-Gos here and there, employing some Kim Deal style bass playing in places, some searing synth motifs, and vocals, courtesy of Cici James, which sound like a cross between the female vocal bands of the sixties and Hazel O’Connor, Siouxsie Sioux and Mari Wilson.
Interestingly, New York Howl is very much a “themed” album: The band found a set of diaries in an abandoned suitcase in the Big Apple, becoming essential reading material for guitarist David Mosey, as he made sense of the adventures undertaken by a young woman, Francis who had taken up residence in New York. These stories and her journey were the basis for the band’s debut long player, and – as the band say – hopefully, illustrate her “isolation and emanation, fear and bravery, regret and redemption.”
While they have certainly achieved elements of their vision on New York Howl, it feels ultimately like a triumphant, positive album, driven home by rousing choruses of “We are not alone. We are not alone” on ‘Make It Our Own‘ which, in itself, has shades of Kate Bush‘s ‘Hounds Of Love‘ about it.
The brilliant ‘Parting Days‘ is very much an eighties synth based floor filler, almost Motown-like in its construction, in the same way that Saint Etienne‘s ‘You’re In A Bad Way‘ transcended the genres to appeal to the masses. In short, this is an album indebted to the ghosts of pop’s past, but it’s graceful enough to pull it off without feeling contrived. A very pleasant listen indeed.
The independently released New York Howl is out now.