Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Charlie Big Time "Dishevelled Revellers EP" (Matinée Recordings)

Although we're conscious that a number of our posts this year have paid tribute to decorated and doughty scene veterans, rather than celebrated a newer wave of pop shakers and heartbreakers, there are a number of boxfresh bands whom we fully intend to big up over the coming months, and Bolton's Charlie Big Time are the first of those. Mind you, they're not complete ingénus: they've already achieved the "double" of recording for both Cloudberry and Matinée (even if Bart & Friends just got there first, what with Cloudberry 708 and this one).

The title song is, we think, the pick of the four here. It plunges straight into an unapologetically breezy sax-keyboard hook (!) before light-touch guitar trills and ornate strum-patterns team up to flank an earnest, fairly understated male vocal. As dextrous worldplay tangles with the jauntiness of said guitars, we're almost in the territory of the Sundays (or even of the Siddeleys, whose hearty "best of" compilation is yet another Matinée catalogue highlight). Then, just as the verse is gliding along so airily that it risks floating away into the ether entirely, the song is tethered by an extra injection of guitar that drives the killer chorus forwards, allowing CBT deliver a line like "I confess / my life's a mess" with an impish joy that rather belies its sentiment. So, yes, "Dishevelled Revellers" is ace: it's about carousing, about friendship, about being glad you'd gone out, about being sad you'd gone out, about scuffles on the dancefloor and high-jinks on the fire escape, about being haggard, ragged and bedraggled, about life's rich tapestry viewed through the prism of nights spent out on the tiles. Probably.

Um, we'd better turn to the rest of the EP. The languorous "The Liberation Of Love", with its blue-eyed "indie soul" feel, will be the highlight for many. Despite a simple and nagging guitar melody which anchors things confidently, the pace seems a little saturnine and tentative - as if they're frightened to speed things up, for fear of dislocating the carefully-struck mood of the piece - but then Beth Arzy's vocals drift exquisitely into view (yes, for it is she, of Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars fame) and lift the song towards a stately refrain of no little beauty. Beth's extra vocal also works its magic on the remaining tracks "Real Estate" (the chorus of which features a surprisingly but reassuringly old-school guitar hook) and the elegant and moving "Passion and Headaches", in relation to which we would say any Lovejoy comparisons are best deployed.

On the evidence of their Matinée début, Charlie Big Time nestle most neatly within the grand tradition of grown-up indie pop which stretches from the early Railway Children, say, right through to the likes of the Cavalcade. But there are other things going on here, too. The more swashbuckling moments suggest shyly danceable, starshy post-Orange Juice pop; the ambition of the songwriting recalls the eyes-on-the-prize genius of former Sarah stalwarts Blueboy; their setting of lyrical pearls within winning guitar rhythms harks back to the Smiths, or at least to the long line of bands - from Bradford to Gene - that 'succeeded' them.

All this, of course, is ample to ensure that "Dishevelled Revellers" barges Charlie Big Time onto our 'watch list'. If there's any justice in the world, they'll be bothering our ears with new material soon.

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