Flare Acoustic Arts League – Big Top/Encore

ep2 covFor years now I’ve often found myself wondering about the “other” singers on The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, then would get sidetracked before I had a chance to look them up.  As fortune would have it, a few weeks ago – and only days after another such diverted thought – I was contacted about the new double EP, Big Top/Encore, by LD Beghtol’s Flare Acoustic Arts League.  Beghtol is the distinctive voice behind such lovely romantic favourites as All My Little Words, My Sentimental Melody, The Way You Say Goodnight, Roses, Bitter Tears and the wonderfully grand fun that is For We Are The King Of The Boudoir.

Lead-off track Last Clown Standing is the obvious highlight.  Straight out of the gate, you know This Is A POP Song. And a great Pop song too, one that makes my Top Ten List for 2011.  As with most of these tunes, I’m reminded of being a teenager, driving around with friends on a summer evening, and the excitement that would burst out of the car, everyone bouncing and singing along, when certain somethings would come on the radio or mixtape.  That combination of catchiness, fun and an interesting lyrical take, like Violent Femmes, The Smiths, Stand-era R.E.M., or Boston’s Veronica Black Morpheus Nipple, if you remember them.  And of course, arrangement and composition-wise, one can’t help but be reminded of Beghtol’s associates The Magnetic Fields. At points reminiscent of Morrissey’s interesting melodic choices over Stephin Merritt’s music, one then almost immediately discounts this thought, Flare being their own thing, especially lyrically.   Some nice lines throughout these eps, like “another technicolour sunset fades to grey” from Scenario, Morgantown’s “every pose has its thorn”, and “draw your family talking backwards” from The Kinetic Family.

I say Last Clown is the highlight, but that’s only due to how much it gets stuck in my head as compared to the others.  As they do as well.  I’ve often caught myself singing Does This Sound Appealing? or Hideous Ethnic Stereotype far away from my stereo.  And the sardonic girl/boy duet of the former and jubilant plague-smiting of the latter would get a pop-loving car ride dancing along too.   With Scenario, again, you immediately know ‘This is a Pop song!”, complete with mariachi horns. An a cappella take on The Real Tuesday Weld’s achingly beautiful Bruises then leads into the really very good, almost-Britpop, number, Candyman Pariah. This is another song that goes where you wanted it to go but you only realize that once it’s taken you there.   Kendall Jane Meade sings the lovely, pointed Morgantown.

The Kinetic Family is another tasty slice of Pop, and my favourite after Last Clown Standing.  New Order-esque melodic bass, synth and drums with a host of singers taking lines in turn, including the unmistakeable voice of Mr. Merritt himself.  Geography Cure is a nice closing number, a latenight walk home building from floating reflectiveness to neon shadowplay.

These are the type of pop songs you want.  Pop for the eveningtime, for swaying along to, for putting on at a party to see people look up and smile.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.