Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations - Cockerel (Trapped Animal Records) 2

Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations – Cockerel (Trapped Animal Records)

Musicians certainly have had it ‘stalled’ these past two years. It is an unsettling coincidence that decades have always begun badly, and this one is no exception. The only way out is through sheer unadulterated pragmatism.

With her backing band, The Illuminations, Gabi Garbutt’s righteous debut album The Discredited Language Of Angels was released mere months ‘before it all began’. And her second album Cockerel has now been released, tellingly sandwiched between the two bookends of the pandemic.

Fortuitously, Gabi started sketching her vulnerability-tinged songs; demoing the arrangements at home, and then moulding them with her band when rehearsal studios opened up.

Containing profoundly explosive ‘indie pop bangers’; Cockerel also proves to be intriguingly atmospheric: evoking locations both wholly poetic and filtered through the gutters of the bankrupted CBGB’s sidewalks. In a nutshell: early Brian Eno, Pete Doherty and Patti Smith all fighting for headspace.

Such yin and yang is epitomised in the later Sea Organ – inspired by a trip to Zadar in Croatia – where there is a sea-playing organ carved into the rocks. It also seems to convey the gaudy sensuality of an English seaside town with a dash of Quadrophenia throwback imagery. The organ plays it all: highbrow and ‘kiss me quick’.

The initial tracks Bad Boy Bird and Subterranean Skies contain her beloved stalwart ingredients: butterflies in tummy guitar; Teardrop Explodes-style brass and a soaring almost orchestral essence. The 2020 single Genet’s Journey is a tongue-twisting roller coaster of narrative. It has an appropriate fairground-style backing which definitely fires up the listener.

Her penultimate single Never Never – about van Gogh and Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine – is an accelerated ride through a Victorian cobbled alleyway with Pauls Weller and Westerberg navigating and steering respectively. The after hours Your Blues is arpeggiated toxic revery amid a bal-musette. It sounds as if PJ Harvey had renounced NYC as her album-driven home circa 2002, and settled into a stonemason’s cottage in her native Dorset.

I Can’t Win – also the current single – focuses on mania and evokes an ego-less, but solitary circuit of the North Circular with transcendental brit pop style guitar giving it a nice ambiguous edge.

Angel Of Third Avenue is observational and empathetic in the mode of Robyn Hitchcock and Bruce Springsteen; about the acceptance of an older person dying and is a heart-rending precursor to the album’s closer Our Dying World. Piano-based. It functions in the same way The Tenant closed Japan’s Obscure Alternatives or Follow Me closed Blondie’s Autoamerican. It started off as a song about the plight of urban species before evolving into one of climate change. A swan song of sorts…….

Like its  predecessor, Cockerel is very rhythmic and full on. Just over 30 mins long, like a mid-career Beatles album, with nary a note wasted. A statement creating a sense of place and comfort-blanketed zesty nostalgia. More than vital than ever after being stationary in our living environs. Throw it on the platter. Let’s be away.

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.