Endorsed by The Libertines and Edwyn Collins, and a purveyor of aesthetically disparate influences which righteously deserve further exploration; the eponymous gamine front-woman Gabi Garbutt and her backing band, The Illuminations are now ready to release their debut album proper, The Discredited Language Of Angels.
While her characteristic pop punk mode forever remains intact, the album itself focuses on the buoyancy and volatility of human experience by way of a reverential stopover at London’s Bunhill Fields – poet and painter William Blake’s final resting place.
The album’s basics were recorded by way of Brixton and sewn up in Clashnarrow, Edwyn Collins’ studio in the far-flung Scottish village of Helmsdale. It was produced by Dexys Midnight Runners keyboardist/guitarist Sean Read. With such an impeccable earthy blueprint under her belt, Gabi has no qualms about proclaiming her love for the diametrically-opposed psychedelia of The Flaming Lips of which she shares a common Blakeian empathy with: relaying the ‘human experience’.
Explosively beginning in a snare-shot fashion not too dissimilar to Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘The Fool’, sung by Gabi in a beautiful estuary-like fashion, sets things reeling coupled with its mid-period Teardrop Explodes-like brass backing.
‘The Higher Place’ – containing pulsating jazz-like backing – is full of regret with its depiction of ‘lost boys in the river’. A distinct cousin of The Skids’ ‘Goodbye Civilian’ which contains similar imagery, and complements the aforementioned Scottish influence.
‘Reason To Believe’ is tongue-in-cheek with multifaceted lyrics. It has an early Bowie feel redolent of ‘Karma Man’, and has a precise earnest feel, with a dashing of Wire’s ‘Outdoor Miner’ thrown in.
The unexpected is definitely expected with the Burroughsian ‘Heat Of The Machine’ ending with a harmonious Beach Boys pastiche. The horticultural-centric ‘Notes From The Undergrowth’ easily makes one imagine Kate Bush serenading the troops in a greasy spoon rather than a bucolic windswept field.
Such quirks continue with ‘Armed With Love’ with its reference to the Jester “scrabbling around for a joke”. This sounds like an outtake from Elvis Costello’s ‘Punch The Clock’ album, with her lyrical trademarks incarnate, and conveying more than a hint of voyeurism. The rhythm guitar unusually synonymous with the brass backing definitely seals the deal.
‘Bright Tiger Eyes’ has vocal enunciation similar to that of Robert Smith circa The Head On The Door, and this sense of genre-hopping continues with the immaculate free jazz-sounding solo and 60s Girl Group backing vocals of ‘I’ll Do Anything’, and the reflective David Sylvian-like ambience of ‘Waterside’. All of this is intertwined with the almost deliberate 80s production essence which is akin to that of The Psychedelic Furs and, of course, Gabi’s yardstick, Dexys.
While this album is one which reinforces its agenda on the listener upon first hearing, as befitting its title; there is a refined sense of ‘throwaway’ to the songs – which takes skill. All of which are made more accessible by her ‘Live Band’ sound. My ticket is reserved. Right in the very front row.