Billy Reeves, founder, guitarist, and songwriter of theaudience (which introduced the world to the vocals of Sophie Ellis-Bextor) was involved in a car accident in 2001 when joyriders smashed into his car, and he suffered injuries including amnesia and spent years in and out of hospital.
In 2017 his brother gave him a couple of mini discs that had been saved from the wreckage, including songs he’d forgotten he’d written.
Inviting Mark Morriss from the Bluetones and Matt Berry’s Maypoles to sing them, he recruited Hard-Fi’s Richard Archer, Mark Peters (The Engineers) and Crayola Lecturn (Zoff/Departure Lounge) these tracks form the debut Helicopter of the Holy Ghost album, Afters, which was released on 13th August.
Revisiting old demos over 20 years on, with the amnesia and injuries caused means this is a very different set of songs that it could have been had it been released then, and the vocals of Mark Morriss do these poetic works real justice, whilst the addition of Crayola Lecturn on piano takes the music into a more Canterbury-esque area, and as a result of the way the band have gelled together, this is an impressive and moving debut.
The richly textured music here is matched by the lyrics and vocals of Morriss, with the startling piano driven opener Slow Down, opening up like an old school torch song, and some affecting personal lyrics.
Meanwhile the ‘epic’ on the album Tony Got a Car again mixes the late 90’s musical influences, sounding like a latter-day Britpop ballad, mixed with more of Lecturns fantastic piano work dominating the song, and Morriss understated vocals help drive this atmospheric and intimate slice of music that builds to an epic fuzz drenched guitar break from Mark Peters, and it’s easy to imagine this as a live anthem that gets the crowd growing.
The musical interplay at work between the band showcases the strength of Reeves songwriting, and the different musical palettes each artist brings to the able, and the way the disparate styles weave, and flow together is here at it’s finest as the song grows and ebbs and flows over its 9 minutes, and I do think it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard thus far this year.
The atmospheric edge to this album is shown on the Hangar Lane Gyratory System 4:44am, with its ambient soundscapes and metronomic musical sounds, is a really interesting and experimental piece of sound that only lasts just under 3 minutes but is one that really sticks in the mind.
Whilst tracks like the wistful I Will Never Hurt, with its mournful muted brass mixed with the piano gives the music a blast of late-night blues club mixed with the Canterbury sound, as it builds to a euphoric finish, or the fantastic End of Loneliness, reminds me of the mellower end of Richard Hawley’s work.
The closing I Didn’t with its lush orchestration and some really intimate vocals from Morriss, rounds this superb album off in style.
The combination of Reeves songwriting, with his superb choice of collaborators have brough this excellent 9 song suite to life in real style, and it is an absolutely beautiful and haunting album that sticks with you, long after the last note has faded from the player.
An original piece of work, Afters is one of the most affecting albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this year.
Afters is available on CD, Download and Vinyl and was released on 13th August 2021
- Slow Down 4:26
- Difficult Song 3:17
- Tony Got A Car 9:14
- A Little Longer 3:34
- Hangar Lane Gyratory: System, 4:44am 2:44
- I Will Never Hurt 4:32
- End of Loneliness 3:08
- You Too 4:43
- I Didn’t 5:38