With their third album ‘Swan Songs’, Leeds’ quartet Post War Glamour Girls look to have made the record of which many had thought them capable.
One of the most prominent and admirably hard-working bands on the Leeds indie scene for the last four or five years, Post War Glamour Girls have struggled to make the great leap forward into becoming genuine contenders, lacking that killer track or aesthetic-defining album. This could all change with their third full-length album Swan Songs, an album that finally has that extra bit of character and cohesion that has eluded previous efforts.
Recorded in the remote north of Scotland, where the band was unable to access internet and couldn’t get a phone signal without walking a few miles up a hill, forcibly took them out of the social media / tech bubble that blights our attention spans, and consequently Swan Songs is imbued with that sense of being cut off, forced to look elsewhere for distraction. It is often an unnervingly focussed album, heard immediately in the forceful, righteous post-punk roar of opener ‘Guiding Light’. It shows that all of PWGG’s instincts are correct, and even if you don’t like the genre, it’s impressive if nothing else.
Throughout Swan Songs, James Smith’s lyrics are often like some kind of worried inner monologue, the product of an anxious mind over-analysing every situation, much darker than anything the band has made before. The slate-grey sounds his band conjures up are a reflection of that sense of deep unease. Furthermore, Post War Glamour Girls display a natural grasp of the dynamics of their genre that means reviewers don’t have to resort to adjectives like ‘workmanlike’ or ‘authentic’, which often apply to post-punk revivalists that mistake uninspired, uni-directional noise for substance, personality and ideas.
Smith’s baritone is like a more animated version of Editors’ Tom Smith. Previously he struggled to be heard over the post-punk roar of his bandmates, but here the production is a bit clearer and the arrangements more dynamic and sparse to give not only greater variety to the music, but also a better showcase for Smith’s voice. The racket of ‘Guiding Light’ immediately gives way to a bit of a breather in the more open ‘Chipper’, to which the drums are the key, as they are in the mesmerising, metronomic rhythm of ‘Pollyanna Cowgirl’.
Seven-minute closer ‘Divine Decline’ is a Brexit-inspired prayer for revolution against the British political climate of 2017, damning “the rat race” and “those who help themselves”. Smith’s incantation for total change later secedes to something that feels like a weary, tearful confession on a psychiatrist’s sofa, as he cries “all I ever wanted was to be a better person”. The slate-grey gloom of ‘Sea Of Rains’ and the grandiose, bass-driven ‘Gull Rips A Worm To Rags’ are only the most impressive moments in an almost uniformly very good record, with only ‘Organ Donor’, for some reason chosen to showcase Swan Songs as its lead single, feeling a bit clunky and uninspired.
It’s taken them a while, but Post War Glamour Girls have now produced an album of the quality that many thought them capable of when they first emerged, a product of its nervous, dread-laden times. Swan Songs ought to be regarded as one of the best albums to have emerged from Leeds this decade, up there with Eagulls and Autobahn’s stormy debuts and the two mesmerising Hookworms albums. (8/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to Swan Songs here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Alice Scott, Ben Clyde, Ed Biggs, Hide & Seek Records, James Smith, James Thorpe, Post War Glamour Girls, review, Swan Songs
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