Factory Star – New Sacral
The most read post on this old blog of mine, other than the general home page, is for my review of Factory Star’s debut album “Enter Castle Perilous”, so as you would imagine , given that was also my album of the year for last year, I have been waiting for this new release with some degree of expectation.
There is a change of course with drummer Tom being replaced by Joe Mckechnie so there were are bound to be alterations. But more than that there is a growing maturity and sense of confidence in this release which, whilst it does not set it above the high standards set by ECP, it moves sort of sideways into a new place for the band which is as impressive, but in a slightly different way.
What strikes first is Chris Dutton’s bass playing which delivers a more solid core sound, more supportive of Martin’s trademark guitar, and John’s evocative keyboard sounds. The release breaks into two clear parts for me – the up-tempo first three tunes – and the slightly more relaxed and reflective second trio.
Up first is “Up and On” with Mr B exploring the Country and Western (or is it North Eastern now?) side of his nature with a jaunty mix of garage rock and a mutant barn dance. great organ sounds and a pounding rhythm from Joe and Chris mix with Martin’s raw guitar and equally raw vocal to create a sense of both joyous abandon and menace.
“Olympian” proves to be a bit of a classic with stunning bass riff, four to the floor beats and an organ sound Vincent Crane would be proud of. Martin delivers a powerful vocal performance and the skittish guitar sound he has made his own add to into a rather intoxicating confection. Some of Martin’s best lyrics here with a sense of the triumphant….which is either about the Olympics or it isn’t depending on which angle you come at it from.
Three in and all sounding great so far – the sensual “Incorruptible” is the closest to the previous album in terms of sensibility. The rising guitar figure in call and response with the keyboards works especially well – and the laconic delivery is laced with the sort of dark menacing tone which gives a sense of unease . A wacked out guitar solo way back in the reverb works particularly well also.
Things start to relax for the evocative “Strangely Lucid” which appeared originally on Martin’s “The Battle of Twisted Heel” album …… Dutton’s chunky bass riff underpins shimmering guitar and keys – Martin evokes former boss Nico to some degree with a european, almost Brechtian feel at times ….. for some reason I was reminded of Tuxedomoon in some respects although Martin holds a tune much better than Winston Tong ever could. Wasn’t quite sure about the reason for the phasing on the vox towards the end but generally a rather marvellous tune.
Track five originally called “I Super Real” was also on “Twisted Heel” (and performed in solo session for me by Martin back in April 2010) is now called “Super Real”….. was always a beautifully measured tune and this rendition takes it on to a new level. The darker side of the lyrics emerge here with that almost cynical detachment that Martin can conjure up at times sitting uniquely within the chords of what is a fascinating melody.
The closing “Weird World” has Martin approaching 60s big voice romantic balladry but adding an evocative rising guitar figure over the Hop Man’s electric piano arpeggiating. I got a sense of Jacques Brel somewhere in the middle of this for some reason which is beyond me but mostly I thought – hang on where are they going with this? It works very well in that it’s not something you expect from a Factory Star song.
As usual beautiful packaging by Occultation with great imagery from Jim Donnelly. The band play with The Distractions and the June Brides at the Kings Arms, Salford on 31t August (sold out) and 1st September (a few tickets left) – see the Occultation website for details. Martin is performing a set of Blue Orchids songs and supporting the Silver Apples at Kazimier, Liverpool on 30th September 2012.
You would be daft if you didn’t buy this.