A certain Mr Steven Patrick Morrissey hand picked theThe Boyfriendsto provide the support on his UK tour. From the opening bars on their eponymously titled debut LP is easy to hear why. Martin Wallace’s croon bears a striking resemblance to the bard of Manchester’s own weary tones. The band punch their instruments with the passion that firedThe Smiths.
There is a crackle, a swoon, a thump that rushes out of your speakers in vaguely 1980′s indie style. But are the Boyfriends more than a bunch of Handsome Devils, a gang of Charming Men? Does the music oscillate wildly or is it a pale imitation or a well thumbed record collection? Are The Boyfriends a miserable lie?
Well, strike me down with a feather, hang out the bunting and turn off your phone. This is something to treasure. Despite my huge reservations and my obsession with The Smiths, I am smitten with this record. There is more than enough invention, wit, wisdom and zeal here to mark the Boyfriends out as something special – a rare band, even. Wallace’s words are by turns heartfelt, funny, clever and well observed.
Thankfully all the quick word play is not lost in a stew of Albion skiffle. That fragile indie sound that has ruled the roost since Pete and Carl split is nowhere to be seen. The lyrics soar across the ominous mechanical throb generated by the band. If you were looking to The Smiths for reference then this would be them in their post The Queen Is Dead glory. This is not meek or delicate – the guitars lash like Bernard Butler jamming with The Who.
The opening Brave Little Soldiers is a bold statement of intent. A set of chords ripped through with glorious abandonment, the rhythm snarls with dark intent. The lyric a call to arms, a plea to keep your dignity and your individuality in face of indifference. The guitar riff is as catchy as a common cold. British Summer Time opens on a reverb heavy riff that builds slowly to its Graham Coxon style fractured melody.
When Martin Wallace sings “It is far too a nice day to be in playing scrabble, let’s slap on some factor 15 on and join the half naked rabble…” I can’t suppress a smile. The picture he paints of London hanging out in the summer time would make Ray Davies proud. It could be a Blur classic apart from the fact that Wallace displays empathy for his subject matter and not misplaced scorn. The military drum rolls match the mood delightfully.
The bassline and toms that open Adult Acne provide Richard Adderley the space to show off his chops. From atonal sparks, via wah wah funk to the chiming chorus, the playing is a master class in precision; mind your backs for a new guitar hero. Adderley further enhances his reputation with the dissolving chords that open I Love You. An aching plea, a declaration of love that pricks the skin like a tattoo needle, leaving an impression long after the sensation has faded. The guitars are like whiplash on the bullet train. There is Always Hope closes the LP in a slowly drifting maze of melody and noise. Eight minutes of melancholy bliss.
Everything here is disciplined and succinct, nothing over stays its welcome, the whole collection hums with purpose. The only thing that stops me declaring it a stone cold classic is a certain lack of variation. It’s nick picking really. This is music of passion and soul. If you miss this you’re a fool.