[sic] Magazine

The Black Lamps – The Black Lamps

The Black Lamps self-titled debut arrived in the [sic] mailbox at the end of 2014 and right before my Christmas road trip. A blessing, really. Had I reviewed it right away I surely would have gushed forth a storm of superlatives of little use to anybody, be it band, existing or potential fans. Suffice to say this record made me giddily, gloriously happy. South Yorkshire has another gem here. Exit Calm may have the power chords but Barnsley’s The Black Lamps conjure a warm hazy reverie that transports me back to the late 80s/early 90s days of dreampop, shoegaze and C86 jangle.

Guitars are the stars here, (including the four stringed variety). Swathed in the kind of effects that would make the simplest nursery rhyme sound heavenly The Black Lamps almost don’t need anything else. Every strum is a pleasure to the senses. They are the kind of band you could enjoy listening to tuning up. There’s an edgier, post-rockier side to The Black Lamps too. On something like ‘Awkward’ the chorus pedal stuff gives way to an early Editors sound. You know, when it sounded like they trapped one million hornets in a bell jar, sampled it and used that to make scales. The majority of this album settles upon reverberated dreampop. Warm bass dominates the mix. Hushed vocals border on the effortless. At times The Black Lamps sound a bit like David Gedge fronting Lowlife but that’s not to do them any disservice. They’re never whimsical or arch. They aren’t trying too hard to be cool. There is simply an all-pervading loveliness to this album. Bands like The Chameleons, For Against and The Sound work as decent ‘fan’ reference points yet The Black Lamps doesn’t sound derivative. They managed to forge their own identity here.

It’s a nicely structured album too. Ten tracks assembled in a logical sequence to leave the listener both satisfied AND ready for more. It opens strongly with ‘The Archivist’ then hits jauntier track ‘Casa Disco’ right away. I would have done exactly the same. In past times (when such things were relevant) ‘Casa Disco’, nostalgic tribute to a now defunct record store, would probably have been the single. Bittersweet emotions then, but the track itself is all chiming majesty. Indeed the albums first six tracks are flawless, culminating in the astonishing ‘Planets’. It’s ironic that the next track is called ‘Are There No More Surprises?’ just when I’m thinking ‘how can they follow that?’ As it happens they do still have a couple of tricks up their sleeves. ‘Gene Pool’ is all stately elegance and climactic live favourite ‘Scissors, Paper, Stone’ sounds as though it’ll be on the set list for years to come.

I still ache to wax lyrical about The Black Lamps. It makes me so happy to discover a ‘new’ band of this quality yet I realise they are very ‘me’. For fans of any of the aforementioned bands this is the sound of hope rekindled. Detractors will doubtless claim that The Black Lamps is an exercise in ‘style over substance’. In that case, I think I’d rather have style.

After all, I’ve always looked good in black.

Official webpage