The Short Stories "Send My Love To Everyone" (Breaking Down Recordings)

We had thought that Bristol's Short Stories had gone the way of all undervalued bands, and that their legacy had begun to trickle unheralded into the all-too porous rocks of history, but not only have they regrouped and returned: they've come back with a terrific, supremely confident fourth album. (On a tangent, and before we forget, you may - if born before punk happened - recall the label here, Breaking Down Recordings: yes, tis' the very same recording empire that brought us the rather ace "Airspace" compilations, as well as a brace of Five Year Plan singles, back in those halycon 80s).
For the purposes of "Send My Love", the Short Stories are a five-piece; core duo Steve Miles and Tim Rippington joined by full band, as well as a number of guest appearances and guest instruments along the way. And, seamlessly mixing torch songs with pop songs, short songs with long, happy with sad, they've really nailed it this time. The influences are classic enough, veering from Go-Betweens to Galaxie and, when the keyboards come in, maybe even Felt, and there's a sense of momentum all the way through to the LP's glorious and frantic closing four minutes of frazzled strum and soaring brass.
The song "Short Stories For Long Nights" (yes, they've left it 'til LP no. 4 to finally deliver the title track for their first one) is especially powerful, a statement of faith that a song can save your life: I haven't been as moved by lyrics since "Want What's Yours". And its title captures the flavour of the more drawn-out numbers on the LP (three hover close to the ten-minute mark), which each provide evening-to-early hours solace, a friend and a fireside chat, the promise of escape. Accordingly, this album feels *brighter* than previous outings: when sizing up album number two, "This Night Is On Fire", we worried a little bit about the sadness on show, but although "Send My Love" certainly has its downbeat moments (and tracks like "Angry Young Man", a lament on ageing, evince a sense of weary resignation), the overall timbre is of a band who have navigated the troughs of life but want this album to be a tableau of the whole human experience, not just of our sloughs of despond.

And on that note, there's one truly scintillating song, "Are You Listening Now?" which is next-level fine. Lyrically reflective yet upbeat, it takes everything about our favourite Forest Giants songs ("Postcards", "Beards", "Closure") and imbues the brew with irresistible poppiness, too. Even better, we have it on good authority that a version of it is going to be a single. Which may be the best news we've heard all week, and certainly eclipses all this royal baby nonsense.


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