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Black Swan Lane – The Last Time In Your Light

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Religious devotion.
Obsessive love.
These are dangerous, destructive behaviours. I have acted this way at times during my life but only over my records. Bands were like Gods to me – my only epiphanies found in record shops or the privacy of my own bedroom, I was never a collector, I was a devotee and I would have followed my idols into Hell.

Reach out and touch faith.

The opposite is also fairly unhealthy – doubt, indecision, hesitation. Have you ever been torn between honour and passion, head and heart or the person you should be with and the person you want to be with? Inertia can be a killer. It can eat you from the inside out. We know we must act, of course, – do the “right thing”. But right thing for whom?

“Not sure if I can make it through”

Over the years my faith in music has lapsed. Never for too long though. Dazzling bands would always emerge to re-ignite my belief. Black Swan Lane are one such band. They lifted my spirits when I was low. They resurrected me. The Last Time In Your Light is their fifth outing (not counting The Messengers ) so you might be forgiven for thinking that by this point BSL could do it in their sleep, by the numbers, phone it in. Existing fans will want to know one thing only, are BSL still as good as they were?

No.

They’re better.

Believe me with The Last Time In Your Light BSL have taken their music to a whole new level. It’s all about those themes – faith, honour, trust. These subjects arise time and again on this new release and they impact forcefully. Jack Sobel grapples with weighty, internal concerns. Just thinking about some of the lyrics now sends a shiver up my spine. These writings speak to me of a man questioning where he is, who he’s with and whether there is any point in even going on. The genius of it is, it isn’t 100% clear who or what is meant at any given time. These words may be messages to other people – lovers, collabrators, friends, or they could be Sobel’s own inner, private discourse. The targets and intentions are ambiguous, open to interpretation.

So where Depeche Mode gave us Songs Of Faith and Devotion BSL now bring us 12 songs of doubt and hesitation. Sobel the lyricist has upped his game and his fragile, personal material strikes a chord with us in spite of (or perhaps because of) not knowing the true meaning behind each song here. In fact, the only ‘true’ meaning is what you want it to mean. Only the greatest music does this. And this is a great album, probably BSL’s masterpiece, its chief triumph being the stark, chilling contrast between words and music. Sensitivity and insecurity may be in evidence all over the lyric sheet but the arrangements stand proudly, full of confidence. The Last Time In Your Light is the best BSL have ever sounded. These songs somehow know they sound great. ‘Stranger’ for example could fill an arena with its Oasis -like swagger and Verve like ….well, verve.

Improvements go beyond mere fine-tuning. The Last Time In Your Light is still recognisably BSL but everything seems to have come together this time. The running order is spot on, the mix really works and the songs are varied but consistently strong. Yes there are highlights. Doubtless you’ll have your own. Mine include ‘Leave’, ‘Without Your Hands To Hold’, ‘Saviour’ and ‘Slide Off The End’. The point is there are no missteps on The Last Time In Your Light . It’s as close to perfect (not a concept I particularly believe in) as anything I’ve heard this year. I was in shock the very first time I heard it and probably never quite recovered How can songs sound so majestic and be so heartbreaking at the same time? It’s easy. Jack Sobel’s concerns are our concerns. So his words reach us and impact on a deeper, more personal level than any Morrissey or Curtis – who, brilliant as they were, were somehow removed from us.

I have said in the past that BSL were a “safe refuge for the world weary”. The world weary are still welcome but there’s no respite here. The Last Time In Your Light is a mirror. You’ll get out of it what you bring to it, find your own meanings and form your own private connections with these songs. You can’t escape yourself. Likewise I can’t tell you what this record will mean to you. All I can assure you of with total certainty is that it will sound utterly fantastic.

Find out more

Review: Staring Down The Path Of Sound

Review: Things You Know And Love

Review: The Sun and the Moon Sessions

Review: A long way from home

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