One of Edinburgh’s finest acts release their new album in seven days time. Something for the Weakened, Meursault’s third album, is out on the 16th of July on Song, By Toad Records. To read my full review, click the “Continue Reading” button below.
When I first moved to Edinburgh, I knew of only two bands that hailed from the capital – The Phantom Band and Meursault. Their first two albums, All Creatures Will Make Merry and Pissing on Bonfires, Spitting With Tongues, formed part of my soundtrack to the city, and therefore to my ears, there’s something of Marchmont, something of the Old Town, embedded in the fragile sound of their songs.
Meursault have changed since their debut was released in 2009, as has Edinburgh. There’s an air of transition about the city, perhaps due to the possibility that it might be made the capital of an independent Scotland in just over two years. Something for the Weakened reflects that change; not in any political sense, since any listener would be hard-pressed to find nationalist overtones in Meursault’s lyrics, but in an emotional one. Neil Pennycook’s voice has acquired a confident edge, their instruments are played with more urgency, and the whole record feels like a truly finished work.
I’ve listened to the album about a dozen times now; almost to try and make up for the fact that I missed the launch concert at the Queen’s Hall, where they were supported by another favourite of mine, Rob St John. I should mention at this point, before we get into the analysis, the awesome-looking deluxe box set of the album, which you can order online. I includes a t-shirt, limited edition vinyls of the album and associated singles, a limited edition lyrics book, a tote bag, a CD of some demos and some badges.
The album’s opener, Thumb, recalls the heartbreaking rawness of previous records; it’s a simple track mainly featuring Pennycook’s signature howl and his ukulele. In this respect, it feels like a hangover from the two previous albums – whether you consider it a relapse or a recap is up to you – but it provides an excellent stepping stone for Flittin’, a track that was included in the Song, By Toad Album Sampler 2012.
In the press release for the record, Toad mentioned that there was “rather more of a thumping indie-rock… vibe where the big, loud tunes are concerned” to be expected; this song typifies that new sound and without Pennycook’s vocals it might be a track from Arcade Fire’s latest album. Flittin’ (released as a single soon) could be considered the true opener to the album, since it’s on this song that the band throws off their old clothes and shows new colours.
The result of that transfiguration is wonderful, and the two tracks that follow are sublime. Lament for a Teenage Millionaire and Settling (an acoustic version of this is embedded above) are brilliant songs and – dare I say it – are about the closest thing to an anthem that Meursault will probably ever produce.
The fifth track Hole, is a wonderfully sad song, exhibiting the strings which feature sporadically throughout the whole record. This thoughtful, brooding song is then followed by the quiet instrumental Lightening Bolt. But this is a reenergised Meursault – and this moody interlude is uplifted by the loud, expansive Dull Spark. I like this seventh track more than anything else on the record; I like the fast pace, the harmonising on the chorus and the pitter patter piano running alongside it. And I think you can tell that the band enjoys this track; that when the second verse says: “for every dirge I ever heard, there was a simple song of hope”, that this song is a song of hope. (As for dirges, you can find those in their earlier works).
For the last phase of the album, the slow blues of Dearly Distracted lead us on, with an air of finality; again, there’s the familiar mournful vocals next to sparing piano, excellently juxtaposed at the end with a climactic guitar solo and an orchestral crescendo. The perfectly poised Mamie returns to previous lyrical themes tread by Meursault; there are echoes of songs like A Small Stretch of Land in the gaps between words and in the carefully chosen phrases. It’s a welcome reminder that Meursault, having added so much sound and variety to their act, have not lost a newton of their gravity. The album closer, Untitled, therefore represents a marriage of their new elements and the old; of fuller instrumentation and of soul-searching songwriting.
On Something for the Weakened, Meursault have outdone themselves.