On British TV, there’s a tradition of The Big Sunday Night Drama series. A kind of throwback to the days before everything being on demand. The big BBC drama that you watch once a week (or in our case leave till the end to binge watch). There’s a new one starting this weekend that’s caused a row in our family.
There’s a modernisation of Dickens’ classic “Great Expectations” due to air and Thorley Snr is not having it. My dad believes that you either don’t touch the old stuff or if you remake it, then you tell it exactly. Me? I come from the opposite school of this thinking. If things don’t change, they stay the same, and it’s in the pushing of the boundaries that you make great art.
Take the blues for example. If the blues was still the same as it ever was, then nothing alters since Robert Johnson trots to the crossroads and does a deal with the devil. Surely there’s room for a fresh angle. Someone who comes along and makes a blues record like you’ve never heard before?
Well yes. They have. It’s called “Limited Edition Lava Lamp” and its sensational.
Ledfoot is best known as the writer of “High Hopes”, the title track of Springsteen’s 2014 record (doing so under his real name of Tim Scott McConnell). He’s lived in Norway for ages and his teaming up here with Ronni Le Tekrø of TNT is on the face of it an odd pairing. On that point and any other, you can forget what you think you know. Just revel in this instead.
“Little Rosie”, the opener transports you in to their world. Part Dylan, part Iggy Pop and part Netflix mini-series, its storytelling is perfect, dark and matter of fact. It’s guitar playing is by turns Laurel Canyon cool and blues classics.
Basically it’s a bit of everything but quite like nothing. That’s also as close as I can get to summing up the album.
They released “Crying” as a single. It’s evokes some dark, desolate open road, you and the pitch black horizon and it does sound a bit like Roy Orbison, even if that’s a little on the nose.
Best of all, mind you, is “The Ego In The Coffin”. Brilliantly raw, wailing blues, its impossible to decide whether it was left over from Woodstock or is some outtake from the soundcheck at Altamont as it all kicked off. What I can say with some more degree of certainty, however is that the guitar work is brilliant.
The slide playing is wonderful. Nothing exemplifies longing better, and “How Hard It Is” is a superb ballad. Another with a brilliant hook, yet not conventionally catchy, indeed, there’s something psychedelic and swirling in the air throughout. “Never Use Your Eyes” for example, seems to float just out of your comprehension, as if it works on a different plane to you. Maybe it does.
“Sailor” is gloriously gothic. Flavoured a little like The White Buffalo, “nothing is all that I have” goes one of its lines and frankly if you’re going to hit rock bottom you might as well do it with some poetry in your heart.
The title track, fittingly, takes you into a dream-like trance. More or less instrumental, save for some harmony and spoken word patches, its one – not unlike the rest – that its best not to question, just to lose yourself in.
There’s one cover amongst the nine tracks. “Sister” originally appeared on The Colour Purple Soundtrack. Here, its turned into some Hawaiian like beach side strum that might have been on an Elvis film in the 60s. It’s pointless saying it’s a “left turn” or any other cliches, given that if this record follows any rule than it’s not immediately evident.
Indeed, as it ends with Ledfoot part speaking “This Hurtful Game” you realise that you are no closer to understanding it than when you started. And that’s fine. It’s not inaccessible, but it isn’t easy listening.
Nor is it conventional. And just like my dad can’t be tampering with his favourites, then my pet hate is the “sideways look”. Like “here’s a sideways look at the weeks news with [insert whatever smug, insipid comedian you like]. It always means someone is going to be “quirky” and “wacky”, two awful words and its going to be as forced as it is false.
If its not forced though, if you’ve an artist that genuinely sees things in a slightly different way, well that’s a different matter. That can sound like some true alchemy, and when it comes to “Limited Edition Lava Lamp” it absolutely sounds like some dark spell is being weaved.