Some Velvet Morning play Musical Chairs (new album)
It’s time to stop comparing London’s Some Velvet Morning to U2, Coldplay, Echo and The Bunnymen, and just about every other ‘80s alt-rock act. While the musical similarities are impossible to overlook, especially in SVM’s earlier work, with the release of Musical Chairs — a four-song EP that expands and enlivens their sound, SVM demonstrate that they are a talent can no longer be overlooked, or dismissed as a retro act.
Musical Chairs is home to the two best songs that SVM have yet written: “Damocles” and the title track “Musical Chairs.” “Damocles,” which references the legend of the sword of Damocles, a fitting one that is perfectly applicable to the state of world politics and and its leaders (and want to be leaders) of today, is a stomping rocker that makes the best use of Desmond Lambert’s guitar playing ability and vocals yet in a SVM song. The song is packed with the kind of musical bridges and choruses that only the bands they are too often compared to could pull off. SVM does it just as well, if not better here.
“Damocles” is going to be the song that gets you to your feet when SVM starts headlining their own arena tours. “Musical Chairs” is the type of spiritually uplifting and sonically ascendent song that will solidify them as the widely appealing arena rock band that they have always been at heart. It’s the type of intricately arranged and performed song that a band at this point in their career shouldn’t be writing yet. Lyrically, it’s allegorically and metaphorically structured to convey a hopeful message without being preachy or obvious. It’s a thoughtful song, and there just aren’t enough of these types of songs in rock right now. Thank you SVM for bringing them back.
The album isn’t War or Joshua Tree by any stretch though. While abstract political themes do make up much of the subject matter, matters of the political heart reign in the dreamy, acoustic guitar driven “Mailer.” Distorted synths show up here in the arrangement, and beautifully play off Lambert’s strumming. As Lambert sings “sometimes I feel magic around me,” the synths build to a dream ending alarum-like awakening. “No Walls” opens with a funky guitar, bass, and drum dance beat that bounces along buoyed by some dance-like synths, that celebrates a night of freedom, that, like the dream in “Mailer,” is slapped out of existence by a dose of serious reality in the form of a hard rock beat smothered in some hard rock guitar riffing. “I hope tonight don’t end” pleads, more than muses, Lambert during the hard rock break. The two songs brilliantly play off of the theme of dream vs. reality both musically and lyrically in a way that a band at this point in their career really shouldn’t be doing with such maturity.
Musical Chairs is the kind of release from an up and coming band that will be referenced as where the band transcended from being interesting to being interestingly great. SVM put it all together here, and craft a listening experience that is rare these days in popular rock.