How very odd that my two favourite albums of the year so far came out a week apart. So soon after the debut album from Bright Light Bright Light we have the first full length collection of songs from that other thoughtful musical man who is also sometimes a one man band: Permissable Permutations by The Melting Ice Caps is here!
This is a debut album but not the first songs, in a similar way to how David Shah’s previous band Luxembourg had some of their finest songs appear on early singles and their oddities collection before their ‘proper’ album arrived. The Melting Ice Caps Version 1.0 songs are available for free on their site (and highly recommended) but this is “11 songs written over the last year or two but not previously released” and the majority of them are linked by similar themes and feelings. Yes it’s sometimes a bit of a Relationship Record, which is an interesting new avenue to be explored in the songs, and these are mostly the songs from the recent gig where I had the memorable pint of chips.
What’s the music like? Well… We get the sometimes serious faced but fun rather English pop that I love, with David Shah’s ear for a good tune meaning these songs are full of musical hooks to compliment the lyrics that are sometimes spoiling us. In Bloom is the first of the happy love songs, with an abundance of ‘real band’ sounds while Keep Both Hands Behind The Cutting Edge changes the mood to what is superficially a series of health and safety warning signs but actually something cleverer: “Keep Both Hands Behind The Cutting Edge / Nobody wants to see your fingertips / Detached from your piano fingers… At least not yet.” A Week Of Warmth is another love song, one which juxtaposes simple domestic bliss with last year’s riots. The old drum machine and other early Ice Caps home made noises and glitchy sounds are back!
Ghost Writer is one of the occasional disco moments, featuring piano riffs over a full-on mid to late 80′s club mix syncopation that reminds me of early Pet Shop Boys 12″s and even has come of those little electronic bell noises that someone of my age and persuasion will approve of. It comes with added philosophy and ends with a “will I leave it our or put it in?” that could be interpreted as having a double meaning if you’re that way inclined. I Go All The Way is rather blissful due to its lovely melodies that bring to mind those old fashioned instrumentals that Saint Etienne occasionally do, and the lyrics are a great example of the quirkier side of the work “Back in Blighty remove cardboard sleeve / Pierce film several times / I go all the way back to life.”
Umbrellas is another relationship song (“I fear the breeze could blow you away / One feckless gust and I’d be lost again / When I have only just found you”) with a good old reliable weather metaphor plus some rain noises for added ambience, followed by Join The Dots which focuses once more on domestic bliss (“Jarvis plays Doris Day and a hundred grown men swoon” and “If you don’t look too hard / I don’t look too bad”). Indian Summer sounds like the older songs, and very like a sequel to the song October which is one of my favourites.
A line about getting high on tea and coffee adds a percussive noise that sounds suspiciously like a spoon in a mug.
Young Man In A Hurry is one of the more straightforward songs on the album, with its pleasant tempo and wibbly wobbly synth riffs. Medical Advice (“Spending too much time reading / Online medical advice that isn’t peer reviewed”) is a jaunty piano song about unanswered communication and incompatibility that ends in a “goodbye” and a banjo loop. Interesting way to finish what is mostly the happy relationship album. I eagerly await the next instalment.
Permissable Permutations can be purchased as a download (for this is 2012) on their Corporate Records page and really should be as it’s lovely.