[sic] Magazine

Former Bullies – Stranger

Chances are that if you’re even an infrequent gig-goer in Manchester, your path and that of Former Bullies will already have crossed. Support-slot veterans for over a decade, Stranger is the trio’s fourth – and probably best – album of endearing jangle-pop LP in that time, even if its eleven tracks did begin life three of four years ago. Life, of course – and in this case – sadly, got in the way, for Stranger is built on the back of the collapse of singer Nick Ainsworth‘s long-term relationship.

Former Bullies have always been heart-on-the-sleeve honest, but now their simple acoustics have extra resonance. Ainsworth doesn’t dwell long in the doldrums, though, and Stranger – while undeniably bruised – is dappled with beautiful melodies that recall, in places, those of someone like Woods and all of them weigh in at less than three minutes. Creaky, scuffed choruses such as the one on “Don’t Ask Many Questions” let the light into the lo-fi home recording like an open door too. One of a series of early standouts, “Little Tear” opts to take its rickety sniffle out for a psychedelic meander for similar distraction purposes.

The band’s undying good-naturedness just can’t help but shine through no matter what. “Under Your Nose”, for example, deals in dreamy, 60s slacker-psyche with lush chord changes. “Rose Of Destiny”, in turn, strips back to early Flaming Lips-style tender weirdness. As for the killer opener, “O World Of Love”, it manages to convincingly sound like a demo of archival Byrds sunshine. Let this Stranger come into your home and heart and it may just never leave.

Best track: “Little Tear”

~Stranger is out now on Towed By The Ghost.~