Inadequacy, Desolation & Football

Claire Welles
(Self Released)

Album review by Richard Lewis - 25/11/2015

Merseyside outsider pop auteur returns with excellent new LP

Returning with her first album since 2012, Inadequacy, Desolation & Football sees Liverpudlian outsider pop auteur Claire Welles deliver her most concise set of tracks to date.

The time away has been demonstrably well spent, as the material herein is as wonderfully off kilter as ever, as the singer firmly nails her own sound, namely fizzing synth pop backed by undulating bass patterns and lyrics that rake over the major issues/minutiae of life in alternately affecting and/or mordantly witty fashion.

Effectively defining DIY, the LP was written, entirely self played and solo recorded to 4 track cassette, the disc benefits from the additional gloss brought to the project by Mick Chrysalid of Liverpool band RongoRongo, who mastered the LP.

Effectively summing up its lyrical themes in its title, the last word of the LP moniker is represented in the opening track as curtain raising instrumental 'Goal Of The Month' provides a custom made backdrop for the Match of the Day feature during its Jimmy Hill/Alan Hansen era.

Pulled from the LP as lead track 'Esther Greenwood', inspired by the central character from Sylvia Plath's sole novel The Bell Jar, itself a disguised autobiography by the American poet, is one of the most seemingly straight-ahead cuts here, the edgy lyrics providing a spiky counterpoint to the shiny synth pop surface. Constructed around a soft acoustic arpeggio and a bubbling undercurrent of backwards cymbals, 'Hand Underneath' evokes Love's spooked psych-pop classic 'The Red Telephone'.

Elsewhere the hypnotic guitar thrum of 'You Scared The Wife Out Of Me', possibly a reference to 2010 LP Wife Machine revolves around a mantra-like chorus 'As I put the knife through the door/You told me to keep away/You scared the wife out of me' that suggests a role reversal version of The Shining and showcases the singer's lyrical skill in making the listener genuinely pay attention to the words.

Signalling the 'desolation' portion of the title, the gradual slide into darkness culminates in the unsettling 'I's Nots Been Cutes (Fors A Longs While)'. Inspired by another poet, this time 1970s TV stalwart Pam Ayres, the track juxtaposes a doomy synth motif with West Country accented spoken word lyrics that conjures up the small hours brain-scramble of Chris Morris' late nineties radio series Blue Jam.

Switching moods completely, 'Children Don't Care About Dust' opens (what used to be) Side Two with the possibly poppiest track present. Sounding pleasantly akin to seventies era Sparks, the anti-materialistic lyric vaguely evokes Naked Civil Servant Quentin Crisp's remark that housework was pointless as 'After four years, you don't notice the dust'.

Named after the long defunct educational daytime strand 'ITV Schools' seemingly deals with the 'inadequacy' of the LP title, the melodic undertow of the song inspired by the music that accompanied the (inexplicably long) ident that used to run before the string of programmes on Channel 4.

This and the following 'Father Online' are arguably the summit of the LP, with the latter built on a bedrock of oscillating synths and a chorus that features a brilliant inversion of the famed lyric from Nirvana's 'Serve the Servants' 'I tried hard to have a father/But instead I had a dad', here substituting the last word with 'cat'.

'Swindon Town', an ultra-tuneful oral history of the football team who had a blink-and-you-missed season in the second ever year of the Premiership 1993-94 summarises their travails so well it virtually serves as an official history of their disastrous tenure in 'The Greatest League in the World' The last verse meanwhile pays homage to one of the era's biggest hits, 'Things Can Only Get Better' pre-New Labour hijacking.

Matching a pretty tune with downbeat lyrics, 'Remembering 28' sees the LP head towards the close. Given greater heft by live drums and bass guitar, the vocals pair Claire's lead line with a slowed down backing voice, a feature that is becoming something of a hallmark before heading for a fade out then returning for a reprise, a device 'nicked from 'Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others'' as the LP liner notes explain.

The best realised album of sparkling Wellesian art pop yet in summary, hopefully the follow up installment arrives soon.

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