Andy Whitaker – Things That Happened On Earth
By: Brett Spaceman
A record that was always destined to end up on my review stack – Andy Whitaker‘s associations with some of Manchester’s (and Atlanta’s) most seminal underground music were a surefire guarantee I’d want to hear Things That Happened On Earth. And that fact that Mrs Spaceman (that’s the lovely Carine, aka Luna) is a bigger Chameleons (and related) nut even than myself (if possible?) means. Things…. is merely the latest in a long line of duplicate records in the Spaceman & Luna household.
‘So good, we’d buy it twice!’ Catchy motto huh? Well maybe not.
And yet, to frame this review with such reference points alone would be doing Things….. an injustice. Whitaker’s reach is wider than mere 80’s indie. Much wider. Let us not forget that the finest exponents of post-punk listened to other music themselves. History tell us that the Pistols/Buzzcocks gigs at Lesser Free Trade Hall were some kind of ground zero for music. Not so. The pre-punk that many post-punks listened to included Iggy, Bowie, Lennon, Roxy, The Doors, Bolan, Lou Reed…. I’d hazard a guess that Mr Whitaker appreciates many of these artists and more besides.
I also get the feeling this is more than a collection of songs, but rather a deeply personal labour of love for Whitaker. Well Mr W, rest easy, it was time well spent. ‘Your Car’ launches the album, a modestly paced exercise in gentle psychedelia and reasonably representative of what will follow. But it is the album’s core, an unhindered sequence of songwriting loveliness, that grabs this listeners particular attention. From ‘Man’, to ‘Sermon On The Mount’ , it’s choon city.
Dreampop , for which Whitaker is best known, lends itself to effect-laden guitars yet Things…. is heavily acoustic-led. Imagine Guy Chadwick stripped of House Of Love’s shimmering guitar wall of sound and told to busk it. Sing for your supper Guy, Except that it’s Andy Whitaker cooing his heart out here and delivering a record far more difficult to age. Things…. is screaming Nick Drake at me. A song like ‘Man’ hovers between Drake circa 1971 and the better aspect of Morrissey solo. Then there’s ‘Stars’, a song to remind us that instant classics still exist.
The skill on display here, the gentle, unassuming melodies – so clever, so beautiful. ‘Singing September Song’ is mind-bendingly good – its verse and bridge wrapping us around Whitakers finger before the Felt/ Anthony Newley chorus croon. After the pedal-tastic instrumental, ‘Primordial Soup’, we’re back in West Coast psychedelia again on album highlight, ‘Hydraulic Bottlejacks’. Is that West Coast USA or West Coast Lancashire? Los Angeles or Lytham St Annes? Who cares? Andy Whitaker flickers between twin melodic genius’s Arthur Lee (Love) and Mick Head (Shack) and for my money could remain doing just that for as long as he wishes, such is my love for that music.
Things That Happened On Earth is a feast for sore eyes and ears alike. I should know. I’m a Spaceman.