I suppose I’m cheating a bit with this one, as I lost the CD ages ago (I say lost, I know exactly who borrowed it and didn’t give it back), but I wanted an excuse to listen to it again, as I don’t put it on enough.
The Earlies are a group of two Mancunians and two Texans, and they worked on the songs for the EPs that make up this album by swapping files over the internet and sending tapes through the post. Astonishingly, they apparently didn’t all meet until after the album was released, so the fact that this record exists – and is so good – is quite remarkable.
The album starts with “In The Beginning”, a pre-emptive echo of “Morning Wonder”, the album’s centerpiece and most immediate song. But it’s when you look past “Morning Wonder” that the rewards really come. There’s real depth in the combination of woodwind, strings and electronics, with a few songs sounding like they’d fit right in on Deserter’s Songs (“25 Easy Pieces”) or The Soft Bulletin (“Wayward Song”, “Song For #3”).
While it’s quite easy to spot the influences and contemporaries (Air, Tunng and Sparklehorse are knocking around in there somewhere too), the record has a personality of its own, and hangs together really well. There’s a sense of fun in the songs too, that you don’t really get from the likes of latter-day Mercury Rev, especially on “Wayward Song”, with its brass “pumps” and tongue-in-cheek references to Kansas.
There are only a couple of things I feel let the album down. Sometimes there’s a bit too much noodling, and the lyrics all seem a bit vacuous and empty. Somebody called Mother Mary features quite heavily here, opening and closing the record, and playing a lead role in “Morning Wonder”, but I get the impression that they just chose her because her name’s a nice thing to sing and people can create their own imagery – there’s no real meaning to it.
I don’t feel the lyrics are that important to this record though. There are some albums where the words are crucial, and there are some where it’s just about the music. This is one of the latter. They could really sing anything over the top of this set of songs and it wouldn’t make a blind bit of a difference to my enjoyment of an album that I really ought to put on a lot more.