the second album, finally. and all our longing lights up and turns to smiles that blend into each other and grow teeth. alarms in the heart is so epic it makes you feel taller. even if you’re walking down to the commuter train in a yellow raincoat that is useless and silly because the rain stopped as soon as you left the house.
i found dry the river by accident. i went to the gig to see marques toliver (again) but that one line “we danced to the shipping forecast” was all they needed to win me over. and they have won other people over, too, long before their magnificent debut album shallow bed had even been released. shallow bed combines astronomy, greek myths, biblical imagery, animal metaphors, surreal places, folk and some hardcore and postpunk elements. or as their drummer jon warren once said to me, “dry the river is an old folk five-piece disaster from the uk.” they also do brilliant acoustic versions and surprising covers. as their violinist will harvey is pursuing other adventures, dry the river is now a four-piece (peter liddle, matt taylor, scott miller and jon warren) but still a wonderful disaster.
alarms in the heart is alive with complex and astonishing melodies, fiercer instruments, excellent lyrics and nerve-wreckingly beautiful intonation. peter liddle still draws on religious imagery and creates fairytale wildernesses but darkness seems to approach through more everyday angles. like seeing someone around the neighbourhood and wondering how they are. and then suddenly “half the town are underground / and half are half way there.” or writing a letter to articulate thoughts and then this: “the garden’s overgrown! [. . .] and now it’s just a field behind the house / where the creepers kind of swallow the light. / where you wait for a talking snake, / for a calendar date‒/ something you can rely on.” and, look, peter liddle’s med school past crept in, as well, providing a intriguingly grim introduction for a library longing.
there is a lovely and effortless reference to leonard cohen that might make you cry, a naked moment at the end of “rollerskate” that might make you stop dead with a slow smile, childhood memories, alienation, faintly disappointed dresses, fights, the pixies, saint john of the cross, a hidden track with bed sheet ghosts in driveway snow and all those radiant lines. such as “like a moth goes sad and soft in the streetlight’s umbilical glow / it was love that laid us low” and “it’s peace i desire but i can’t put the fire out or i’d be in darkness again.” and more in “gethesmane” than i can reasonably quote here.
in short, the second album, like the first one, is a treat. and, if i’m reading the tarot cards on the album cover right, the unexpected losses of the past will, through sudden change of direction in the present, lead to a future where a new creative cycle begins ‒ in other words, from here on, treats galore. and, judging from past gigs, all that is left to say now is go see them live if you can. awoo!
a brave account of the failures and growth processes involved in making alarms in the heart
(from contrived structures to singing into voice memoes to each other in london to the recording period in iceland).