Album Review: The Wave Pictures – A Season In Hull

A Season In Hull

a season in hullReleased 12th February 2016

Words: Julia Grantham
The Wave Pictures are a unique band; hear them once and they get under your skin and are henceforth instantly recognisable. They have a wonderfully original talent for story telling and their lyrics are brimming with wit, cynicism, humour and passion. Every song tells a story and the more you listen, the more you appreciate the individual style and meticulous nature that makes this band so endearing. They are masterful lyricists that write appealing, melodic guitar-led songs with equally as strong, poignant vocals. They make you smile, laugh and tug at your heart strings all at once; they are certainly hard to resist. I heard them first on BBC Radio 6 and was hooked within the first few bars of their song: Spaghetti taken from the 2012 album Long Black Cars. When I saw they had released a vinyl only release recorded on lead singer Dave Tattersall’s birthday, I didn’t think twice before agreeing to write a review and I’m very glad that I did!

Formed in a small village near Leicester, The Wave Pictures have been writing and performing for nearly two decades now, and as such A Season in Hull is their fifteenth studio recording. It has a very fresh and honest feel to it, perhaps due to it being recorded acoustically, live in a convivial atmosphere around a single microphone. It feels as though it was written quite off-the-cuff, certainly it was written quickly and has a spontaneous and honest edge to it. The overall mood of this album is reflective, poetic, downbeat and yet fresh and appealing for all its simplicity at the same time. It fuses Americana with folk, blues, country but is still tinged with Morrisey-style British Indie vocals. Above all, it is unmistakably The Wave Pictures, albeit a stripped-down and simpler version of what we are used to from this London-based trio.

The opening track, A Season In Hull has a very melancholy almost mournful tone to it; a dreary tale of the drudgery of a particular time spent somewhere undesirable, perhaps. I can’t help but feel that the line ‘I wait for the sun to stop shining’ is meant to be ironic, and seems to be about a bleak period of time, spent holed up somewhere with nothing to do but write letters to someone, such is the monotony of the vocals and repetitive guitar passages. A very stylised introduction which cleverly forces us to listen carefully and absorb the song’s message. Remains, has the same repetitive edge indicated by the line ‘the days ran away from me’, however the tempo is quicker on this track and is haunting, with the emphasis seeming to be on the passing of time. The Coaster In Santa Cruz has a much more laid-back bluesy feel to it, and is sung with all the affectionate nostalgia of someone looking back on a relationship in a heartfelt, poetic way. The chorus is beautifully harmonised with the addition of a second vocalist, and is followed by some lovely harmonica interludes. A real heartfelt traditional blues number, with all the style of an old-fashioned blues era.

In typical Wave Picture style Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous fuses humour with pathos and melancholy such is evident in the line ‘I love you, you idiot and I don’t want you to go’. This is a really folky tune, with a downbeat tempo, simple but purposeful percussion, and mournful vocals overflowing with desperation. A simple but powerful message is sung, begging someone not to leave. Tattersall’s voice has the ability to reach out and grab the attention of the listener and forces us to identify with the feeling of sadness at loosing someone. A beautifully poignant song, and a clear stand-out track on the LP.

One of my favourite songs on this album is Tropical Fish, and I wonder if it is referring to the fish in one of Hull’s biggest parks! Nevertheless, this track has a more upbeat tempo than the previous songs, and has a real bluegrass sound. I love it because it has one of the most funny lines on the album, describing the need to escape ‘ I open the window and start to climb the fire escape’, and is all about wanting to go home. I love the way that The Wave Pictures make light of situations in their songs. Their humour is very dry, and is wonderfully juxtaposed with bleak desperation. Another interesting addition to this album is the Acapella spoken word track entitled Flow My Tears, The Musician Said which captures the band’s poetic proclivities and draws our attention yet again to their ability to blend lyricism with humour; it serves as a reminder that this album was recorded live with a group of friends around a microphone, and has a distinct sense of camaraderie and spirit about it.

Towards the end of the album, A Letter From Hull (Dom’s Song) sees Hull get a mention again with a very bluegrass sound. This song reminds me very much of The Kinks, and indeed, could be lifted straight from the album Muswell Hillbillies. It is very upbeat, perhaps one of the faster-paced songs on this album, and yet has a melancholy undertone at the same time. It is charming, descriptive and brimming with anecdotes of a hard year spent away from home but is sung in a cheery way, as if deliberately written with the sole purpose of cheering someone up, such is the repetition of the line ‘I know you, your sense of humour will get you through’. It is short and sweet with a simple message.

The last few songs on this LP are perhaps among the best, and indeed the final song has a happy and playful sound, as if closing the lid on the time spent away from home. David in a field of pumpkins is an imaginary song of escapism and looks forward to the future. It is rich in melody, and contains all the warmth of summer and is the perfect way to end the album, looking towards the next season, or next chapter in life. A Season In Hull seems to capture all seasons. There are cold, bleak sounding tunes and uplifting heart warming tales, and all in all is a fabulously poetic and insightful album. I would highly recommend a listen. It surely sits well and proudly with the impressive collection of albums that this wonderful band have produced to date.

Listen to title track A Season In Hull here:

 

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