Æ: Aglet Eaters

SULK – Graceless

Posted in Album, Discover, Review by R on May 5, 2013

dat hair

Things I love about SULK:

  1. Their name, my constant state of being
  2. Their hair – moptop (who needs a field of vision, anyway), sideswept (left), sideswept (right), long (enough), rufflable (c’mere, you)
  3. Their sound – brazen and unafraid.

Every review of Graceless out so far can be summarised thus: SULK sound like the Stone Roses.

It’s possibly an oversimplification, but not a lie. In addition to the smoky monkey man vox, Graceless is a firm devotee of the Britpop sound, flaunting crisp guitars, hair-flippable drums, and such flowery song titles as ‘Diamonds and Ashes’, ‘Back in Bloom’ and, well, ‘Flowers’.

The question – in sounding like our Madchester/Britpop/Acid House/C86 heroes – are SULK any good?

The answer – surprisingly – yes.

For eras as revered as these, it’s a wonder their derivatives have never come anywhere close to the original sound. Books and movies and journal articles have all striven to capture the essence of what made Madchester/baggy, acid house, and Britpop the sensations they were. Still, the Britpop offspring, never really captured the sound and were, despite the technicalities of their success, unbearably insipid.

Britpop itself – a style, a scene that based its success on sounding like everything that had come before it – was unselfconscious enough not to suffer from banality. Half of Elastica (the album) may not even have been composed by Elastica (the band), but we still listen to ‘Waking Up’ every morning (‘make a cup of tea/put a record on’). We still sing along to ‘Champagne Supernova’ with the same conviction that Liam instills into Noel’s ‘slowly walking down the hall/faster than a cannonball‘.

That’s the ‘swagger’ everyone talks about – the obnoxious self-confidence with which the blatantly inane and/or unethical are not only forgiven, but celebrated.

GracelessSULK are the first group I’ve come across to have it. While I can’t quite catch any plagiarism on Graceless (apart from the passing similarity between the opening of ‘Marian Shrine’ and German group Selig‘s ‘Ist Es Wichtig’, which I can’t imagine is intentional), and the lyrics seem innocuous enough,  SULK radiate poise and self-assurance. They wind 1989-1994 around their fingertips as if the years were their own creation (no pun intended).

It’s not plagiarism, it’s inspiration – or so I react to ‘Marian Shrine’ (aka ‘Manchild’, for those of you not keeping your eyes on the tracklist) the most Roses-y of the lot. A track that prances around a sticky chorus you’re sure you’ve heard before (“maaaaaan-chiiiiiild!”), completely oblivious to the decade it’s in.

Wait, no, it’s clearly ‘Sleeping Beauty’ that’s the most Roses-y. It’s funny how all of us review types are throwing around the word ‘Madchester’ as if there’s some sort of revival going on, when really SULK only sound (exactly) like one of the three bands that defined the sound. Not a sign of the shameless grooves that made the Mondays or the broody mantras of the Carpets. Again, we’ve got a song that sounds so familiar it hurts – but just try to place it… it can’t be done.

Have mercy – from this whirling opener we’re thrown into the breathless ‘Flowers’ whose endless chorus overflows with all the jingle-jangle and ba-ba-ba’s in the world, ensuring you’ll spin around and around till your head flies off. A little later, a song made up of the ocean – ‘Back in Bloom’ (if your eye’s not on tracklist, you’re hearing this as ‘Black and Blue’). Waves of reverb, waves of ricocheting space-vox, and waves of a chorus that spirals in and out of focus (‘she’ll be back in bloom’).

I didn’t ever expect an album like Graceless to come my way, or even to exist. Nostalgia aside, it’s worth admiring the album for the quality of its production (Ed Buller worked on albums by Suede, Pulp and White Lies – SURPRISE!). It’s also worth noting that, despite their FANTASTIC hair, I am praising SULK on the worth of their music. Graceless must be good.


2 Responses

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  1. Jim said, on May 11, 2013 at 2:23 am

    I knew I was going to like this band even before I’d heard them, based solely on this review. Turns out, I didn’t just like them — I love them. The Stone Roses influence is indeed very strong here, and I’m also picking up subtle nuances of everything from The Beatles to Duran Duran.

    “Duran Duran, you say? (And are you insane?)”

    Ah, before you pass judgment too harshly — “Marian Shrine.” Imagine Simon Le Bon singing the lyrics for the verse passages, and tell me you’re not hearing some strong shades of Duran Duran there??

    It’s all good, though. It’s all very, very good.

    Before the days of mp3’s, when one had to buy full CD’s to get the song(s) they desired, I would once in a very great while (it didn’t happen often) buy an album that I could listen to from start to finish, because there were no weak tracks. This would have been a CD that I’d listen to straight through, then hit the “Play” button again to give it another round.

    And if “Sleeping Beauty” doesn’t become huge, at least within certain circles (I’ve lost all hope for the major radio stations) — then something is very, very wrong.

    I’m apparently going to have to take up a second job to pay for all this great music coming out, but it wil be worth it!

  2. SULK REVIEWS! : deep space recordings said, on September 16, 2013 at 1:06 am

    […] Aglet Eaters – “It’s also worth noting that, despite their FANTASTIC hair, I am praising SULK on the worth of their music. Graceless must be good.” […]

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