Released: 24th January 2020 (available now on digital streaming platforms)
Formats: Triple Vinyl / USB Stick / DSP / DD
Fred Deakin, one of half of Lemon Jelly bestows an epic, conceptual science fiction album upon us.
As a race, we humans respond strongly to familiarity. Therefore it’s no surprise that whenever a member of a celebrated group goes solo the first question is always ‘Does it sound like the band?’ In the case of Fred Deakin, one half of Lemon Jelly, the answer is both yes and no.
The Lasters has all the sonic optimism of a Lemon Jelly album, providing said familiarity in abundance, but atop is layered a theme more at home in the doom metal genre. Deakin has made a theatrical concept album about the impending apocalypse and the journey of the members of Earth’s final family.
Initial headscratching aside, there was always an organic, outdoorsy feel to the music of Lemon Jelly that seemed at one with nature. And with the present climate climate, so to speak, who better (Greta Thunberg aside) than Fred to address how downright awful we continue to be to our planet.
Combined with Charlotte Hatherley from Ash and alongside newcomers Abi Sinclair and Steffan Huw Davies, The Lasters is brimming with breezy pop and catchy hooks. However, on a personal level, I struggled at first to get on board with the vocal elements to the degree that I considered splitting this review into musical and lyrical segments!
Obviously with a concept album, there is a necessity to tell a story, but here it sometimes feels too explicit, in particular the ‘acted parts.’ The conversations between the girl and the Welsh AI (Artificial Intelligence) could force a grimace at times.
In my experience, the art of good storytelling is to dilute the tale down to its very essence (hopefully Scorsese and Tarantino are reading this), and with a run time of 72 minutes there is a definite sense of potential over exposition in the telling of what should otherwise be a strong concept.
That said, as a big fan of Lemon Jelly fan it could well be my yearning for the aforementioned familiarity that was getting in the way of my enjoyment of the vocals. With each subsequent listen the vocals have bedded into the joyous music beneath it all to create what can definitely be labelled ‘a grower.’
The track Get The Message Through, could be a Super Furry Animals b-side, even down to Steffan Huw Davies’ turn as a pound-shop Gruff Rhys. I Remember wouldn’t be out of place as a bonus track on a reissue of Lost Horizons and I was pleasantly impressed by Deakins’ Bernard Summer type vocal turn on Come To Me. A bit more of his lead vocal would have been gladly received.
It will be interesting to see where Deakin goes next. Here he has shown that he has lost none of Lemon Jelly’s musical zeal, and despite being a bit on the bloated side it is a very strong first outing for someone who has been out of the game for almost a decade and a half. After the fourth or fifth listen that is.