sun 14/04/2024

Album: Electric Soft Parade - Stages | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Electric Soft Parade - Stages

Album: Electric Soft Parade - Stages

Brighton indie-psyche stalwarts offer a luscious, heart-rending exploration of grief

On your own

18 years ago, Electric Soft Parade, centred around brothers Alex and Thomas White, were the latest hyped hope of indie kids and NME-type media. However, their might-have-been moment imploded when they moved too fast for their fans, rocketing off in wildly creative flourishes rather than sticking to a predictable formula.

They – and associated break-away bands – have since produced a fascinating array of musical activity, often boasting an inventive yet old-fashioned feel for orchestration.

Their latest album, their fifth, is a change of direction. Written and sung by Alex, recorded and produced by Thomas, it’s a seven song concept piece, inspired very directly by the death of their mother. It is, then, a meditation on grief, and could have been a morose nose-dive. It is far from that. The music, while often melancholic and minor key, is given to almost symphonic explosions and lengthy instrumental codas.

It’s certainly heart-wrenching, with Alex displaying a richly poetic ability to nail the nature of bereavement, his voice hauntingly sad as he enunciates lines that skewer the way such loss places one at odds with the mundane details of everyday life. On “Roles Reversed”, he sings “A sunny day, start the car, didn’t look so great/Couldn’t feeling anything past a certain point”, while opener “Saturday” evokes driving “hours and miles through every sleeping town, knowing any day all this will change, not knowing how”. Such snippets only hint vaguely at the emotionally literate craft of Stages’ lyrics.

The accompanying music is varied but always lush. “The Bargain” comes on somewhere between Pulp and burlesque Seventies glam pop, while the 12 minute “On Your Own” is an epic that churns its way from a steady piano-accompanied strum to a euphoric, brass-underpinned odyssey. A number of the songs are very long but they’re never dull, The Whites successfully pull the listener into their world, tempering the strife and mental pain with persuasive musical counterpoints.

Stages is not an album anyone will be playing to friends while sucking beers before a night out. This isn’t to say it’s relentlessly downtempo, far from it, the music often takes flight, but at its core it’s a personal exposition of catharsis, set in the real world. As such, it’s one of the few fully conceived albums on its subject. Almost everyone goes through the loss of their parents, a seismic life event of the psyche, yet there’s little focused music dealing with it. Electric Soft Parade have made a stunning foray into seldom-explored territory.

Below: Listen to "Roles Reversed" by Electric Soft Parade

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