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Dead Guitars – Shelter

“Unhappy child, just leave your bags behind”

What a tonic. As we enter the dark months of December and January could any record be more welcome, more needed than Shelter? Dead Guitars fourth chapter somewhat defies the odds. For an act comprising the lead singer of The Convent (and White Rose transmission) plus most of the surviving members of Twelve Drummers Drumming, one would be forgiven for expecting another slice of weary melancholia. After three regal albums would it be time for a Christmas turkey? Not so. Shelter is positively buoyant in both tone and tune(s). Right from the off we’re in warm, spangly dreampop territory. Shelter’s opening salvo reveal toe-tapping tendencies. ‘Heaven Seven’ feels like a lost Kitchens of Distinction gem. Its follow up, ‘Happy Sad’ is pop in its purest form and certainly puts the jaunt into jaunty. In another, fairer world this would be a radio hit. ‘Happy Sad ’is almost more Boo Radleys than Dead Guitars.

More Boo Radleys than Boo Radleys?

Thing is, with the Boos, they began as shoegazers but Martin Carr practically bled Merseybeat and he had songs to write. Fans who wished they had stayed ‘gazer were, certainly missing out, if not missing the point altogether. They should have stuck around. As Shelter reaches ‘Half Light/……’(Incidentally the third successive track to mention “Heaven”.) this albums full Beatlesque leanings are revealed. We’re somewhere in Sgt. PeppersWhite Album era right here and Shelter is beginning to sound like an opus. There’s just so much to admire in this recording – the little intricacies in ‘I Surrender’ – reminiscent of Dusk era The The, the pastorally melodic singalongs (eg ‘Bullet Proof’) and even little moments of ambience. (‘Mandys House’) Epic closing song ‘Traffic Lane’ twinkles like one of those Hammock tracks where they invite a guest to sing. It simmers. It flickers. We know it will ignite and it duly does just that. It is what I call a proper ending track. We’re a million miles from the ‘soft Goth’ of Flags era Dead Guitars. Then we might have filed them alongside the likes of All About Eve and The Church. Shelter finds our fab five sparring with the likes of Teenage Fanclub and The Verve. That said, ‘Mona Lisa’ throws a backward glance toward icier times. It’s a memory though, not a defining moment. As songs such as ‘Wooden Head’ and ‘Love Rules’ show, Shelter is a song-based collection where the craftsmanship more than matches the tonality. The playing, the production and the lyricism here are things of joy. I’m put in mind of the recent House of Love comeback She Paints Words In Red.

History suggests Britpop usurped Shoegaze. Shelter reminds us there’s room for everything that’s good.
And man, this is good.

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