Erland and the Carnival
The debut full length album by Erland and the Carnival, featuring vocalist Erland Cooper, former Verve and The Good, The Bad, The Queen member Simon Tong, and David Nock from Paul McCartney’s The Fireman, is an impressive collection of traditional folk songs re-worked with a modern 21st century twist and more then a little nod to 60’s bands such as The Yardbirds and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the result being described as “pastoral psychedelia.”
The album opens with the tradition folk song ‘Life Is A Killing Thing.’ Lovely and haunting, the song gradually picks up momentum with Cooper’s melodic vocals juxtaposed with a cacophony of electric guitars. This is followed by Yardbirds inspired songs ‘My Name is Carnival’ and ‘You Don’t Have To Be Lonely', both beautiful but lacking somewhat in originality, the first sounding so much like ‘For Your Love’ you feel the need to reach for the track list to check the credits. ‘Trouble In Mind’ is a nice little gem with a jaunty rhythm and cool syths giving it a more modern feel, while the old Celtic folk classic ‘Tramps and Hawkers’ is given an oom-pah-pah flourish.
The Leonard Cohen poem ‘Disturbed This Morning’ is put to music, the simplicity of the music highlighting the beauty of the lyrics: "That’s what I was so disturbed about this morning / My desire has come back / And I want you again / I was doing so fine / I was above it all." Other songs, such as ‘Was You Ever See’ and ‘The Sweeter The Girl, the Harder I Fall’ are deeply rooted in 60s psychedelia while the quirky ‘Everything Came Too Easy’ sounds like a cross between the afore mentioned Yardbirds and Ennio Morricone. The final number is another poem set to music, William Blake’s ‘The Echoing Green’ and ironically the most original tune in the bunch. The 18th century lyrics are set against synths and distorted vocals which contrast nicely with the theme of innocence and experience: "Sing louder around / To the bell's cheerful sound / While our sports shall be seen / On the Echoing Green."
As with The Last Shadow Puppet’s The Age of the Understatement and Kasabian’s West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum Erland and the Carnival have attempted to created a work steeped in the past yet rooted in the present - and a fine attempt it is too. This album is sometimes lush, occasionally beautiful and often extremely enjoyable. However, The Puppets and Kasabian's triumph is through their ability to reinvent the music of the 60s into their own sound, thus creating music at once familiar yet wholly original, whereas Erland and the Carnival's songs are still tied a bit too tightly to their past. But what the album lacks in originality is made up somewhat by the first-rate musicianship and well crafted songs all woven together by Cooper’s gilded vocals.
Even if it doesn’t chart new musical territory the great tunes and lush arrangements definitely make this album worth a listen.