Unpopular Advent 2019 – Day 15

GospelbeacH – ‘Fighter’ from ‘Let It Burn’ LP

If Young Guv has made a couple of connected albums that so marvellously mine seams of Power Pop then GospelbeacH have certainly made one that follows those seams into the treasures of another favourite Unpopular genre, that of Cosmic American Music. This should come as no surprise since GospelbeacH features the likes of Beachwood Sparks’ Brent Rademaker and the already much missed Neal Casal who so sadly left us just prior to this record’s release.

If Casal’s loss inevitably colours our reading of ‘Let It Burn’ with hues of sorrow and melancholy then it only adds a tinge that it would already carry. Not that ‘Let It Burn’ is a sad-fest. Far from it, indeed, for at its heart this is a record brimming with assured good-time rock and rolling, players and singers revelling in the sheer pleasure of making music together. That sense of togetherness, of soul if you will, ripples ineffably throughout ‘Let It Burn’ and binds it into a whole that we cannot help but come back to time and again. There are individual spots of pleasure of course (the Ray Davies-in Amercicana-esque ‘Bad Habits’, the soaraway Power Poprocker ‘Dark Angel’ and the (auto?)biographical ‘Good Kid’ which also features the terrific Miranda Lee Richards) but it works marvellously as a cohesive album. Perhaps that is something of an outmoded concept in these digital download times (we are as entwined in those technologies as any) but we feel certain GospelbeacH know what we are talking about.

Whilst the focus of our attentions is of course on those (Nudie) threads of Americana that weave so deliciously through the California Sun-tinted sounds of GospelbeacH we should not forget that there are also refractions of the anglophile leanings that Rademaker has long displayed in his work. It is tempting to draw a line from GospelbeacH to Primal Scream, for example, and there is certainly something of the thrill of those ‘Give Out’ Memphis Sessions seeping through ‘Let It Burn’, and let us not forget of course that The Tyde (another of Rademaker’s groups) once covered ‘Leaves’. Indeed, slip us a few drinks and we’ll probably tell you that ‘Let It Burn’ is only the album Primal Scream could have made after ‘Sonic Flower Groove’ if they hadnae taken so many bad drugs, slipped on too many leather trousers and listened to too much Southern Rock. We’d be drunk and talking shite of course, but sometimes there are glimmers of truth in such ramblings so we will leave it at that and pour another whisky.

It’s to Felt though that we always see the most obvious connections in much of Rademaker’s music, perhaps mostly because his vocal style is reminiscent of the nearly spoken delivery of Lawrence. Again, maybe it’s that whisky playing its delicious tricks but we cannot resist the temptation to tell you that album closer ‘Hoarder’ comes over like Lawrence doing a Lou Reed impersonation over a honky-tonk soundtrack. “Let’s order drinks and skip the dinner”. That may sound like misery to some (perhaps even to Lawrence himself) but it sounds like heaven to our Unpopular ears.

It’s in the mighty six and a half minute ‘Fighter’ that the Felt connections feel most obvious though, and in mix-tapes in our hearts we are sequencing this next to ‘New Day Dawning’ with Casal’s wonderful guitar lines connecting to those moments when John Mohan took flight and we all gasped at the idea of Felt turning into Dire Straits. ‘Fighter’ replicates that delicate-turned-dramatic dynamic and GospealbeacH turn in a performance that could slide equally neatly onto ‘Let It Bleed’ or ‘Burrito Deluxe’ as ‘Me And A Monkey On The Moon’. It may be sad to reflect that ‘Fighter’, like the entirety of ‘Let It Burn’ might act as an epitaph for Neil Casal’s tragic passing, but it should surely rather be read in as fittingly positive a light as possible. RIP Neil Casal and Burn On GospelbeacH.

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