Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted
‘The Great Unwanted’, the long-awaited debut album from Lucky Soul, is a revelation. Really. Those of us who’ve kept an eye on their progress over the past 18 months or so have been charmed by the colour and soul of their Carnaby Street pop, realised in the handful of singles they’ve released to date. Come album time, what we might not have expected was a record that arcs far and wide above the reach of those calling cards. Fear not. ‘The Great Unwanted’ punches several classes above its weight. It is an absolute masterstroke in that takes its sixties soul influences and welds to them a uniquely British sensibility, propelled by some of the smartest playing you’ll hear all year and underpinned by the quiet genius of leader and guitarist Andrew Laidlaw. I simply can’t picture another record in 2007 bringing me such absolute joy. It sings.
Let me tell you about songs, for ‘The Great Unwanted’ comes weighted down with the damn things. Over the course of 13 tracks (14 for those of you with a little patience …) they sizzle and soar. From opener, and most recent single, ‘Add Your Light to Mine Baby', with its Dexy’s horns, to closer ‘The Last Song’, a torch song that brings the whole affair to a delicately quiet and disquieting close, Lucky Soul demonstrate uncommon skill with the humble pop song. There are many highlights. ‘One Kiss Don’t Make a Summer’ comes on all ‘Downtown’ with its shimmery funk. ‘Get Outta Town !’ is a riot – a Stax-y blast. The album’s centrepiece, its semi-epic title track, is the best ‘You and me against the world, babe’ song I’ve heard in a long time.
A mention, for once, for the lyrical ambition on show. Remember the last time you came across a songwriter who had such a hold on the humble word that they might actually be worth quoting out of context ? No ? Exactly. So let me try you with this. On the jaunty ‘Struck Dumb’, chanteuse Ali Howard sings : “Lately, silent survival has brilliant thoughts turning grey on arrival, like old gum : stretched out and worthless.” On ‘My Darling, Anything’ (by now the titles alone should have writ large the Lucky Soul aesthetic) she coos : “You’ve got to remember I’ve got a heart condition. Just listen closer, every fourth beat is missing.” And while the band play with consummate skill and taste, t’would be rude not to single out for special attention their supremely talented singer who, discovered working in a bookshop when the original singer left, sings with husky panache. (When the style mags start putting her on their covers, she'll at least be able to laugh it off, confident in her talent.)
Oh hell to restraint. This album has wormed its way into my heart and soul this past couple of weeks. Nothing I’ve heard in an age has so effectively squeezed the air out of my lungs. Lucky Soul, for whom this debut album represents an absolute artistic and creative leap of crazy ambition, are a great, great band. There must be laws against how much I love them. Elegant yet kinetic, they will surely now start to conquer your hearts. If Berry Gordy had been born in Britain he’d have signed them on the spot.