Simon Lucas-Hughes All Of The Time, Sometimes (Shy Cat Media)
By Seymour Quigley
Some albums are sneaky little buggers. On first listen, they barely register, beyond establishing, in the back of your mind, that they sound quite good and that everything seems to be in tune. On second listen, you might find yourself thinking, That bits nice, before turning your attentions back to more important business, like experimenting with different combinations of breakfast cereal, or combing your back hair. And then it begins. Slowly, short bursts of song start invading your thoughts. You find yourself singing gibberish lyrics over half-remembered tunes at slightly inappropriate times while painting a neighbours fence, or standing on a crowded bus, or milking a cat. People look at you funny. Children cry. I like that song, you might say, to no-one in particular. I wonder who its by?
Simon Lucas-Hughes is a menace to your dignity. Quiet and unassuming though he may appear, his stock-in-trade is in disarming the unsuspecting listener with sheer politeness, leaving finely-crafted, yearning pop songs etched indelibly in the mind while no-ones paying attention, and then quietly slipping away. Chances are, if youve seen Simon live, or caught even a snippet of this album online, that mystery song stuck in your head right now is by him. In short: If music were an arms race, All Of The Time, Sometimes would be a stealth bomber. John Travolta would eject Christian Slater from it in order to steal the nukes and blow up a train. A TRAIN. Naughty John Travolta.
So when Push The Clouds opens with Simon, barely accompanied, barely audible, singing Stuck in the back of your 60s hell, you almost dont notice when it suddenly explodes into a genius pop chorus; for one thing, its all over in less than 3 minutes. And why should you? That cats not going to milk itself. But youll remember, the next time you listen and youll have goosebumps. Youll have goosebumps when Expectation, with its planet-sized falsetto chorus, finally hooks you and reels you in; youll have goosebumps at the sheer incongruity when, as on Get To Me and the excellent Switch, a completely unabashed David Gilmour solo lands abruptly amidst the Strokes-ian guitars, but somehow somehow doesnt seem at all out of place; and youll have goosebumps when Thunder, all Tex La Homa atmospherics and heartfelt vocals, warms you to the very centre of your soul. In fact, goosebumps will be very much dish of the day. Goosebumps, au Lait du Chat.
And its that goosebump-factor that marks Simon Lucas-Hughes out as a genuine cause for excitement; for where others are simply wet, Simon is considered and delicate, and where others scream and emote to hide a total lack of substance, Simons restraint channels and amplifies his clear and infectious passion for making music. You see, unlike so many bashful boys with guitars, who hide their considerable fret-wanking talent under the nearest indie bushel for fear of being laughed at by the cool kids, Simon Lucas-Hughes has realised three simple musical truths: Firstly, the difference between a skilled musician and a mere muso is that where a muso will attempt to drown you in the guitar-shaped swimming pool of his own ego and before we get into the whole his-not-her thing, musos are invariably male a skilled musician can win you over through a quiet sense of knowing and a simple lack of shame. Secondly, while were on the subject, NO SHAME. EVER. And thirdly, most importantly, that if you want people to remember you when youre gone, it pays to load your album with a heap of top tunes.
All Of The Time, Sometimes is far from perfect; not every song here is an out-and-out classic and the DIY production, whilst charming, means that some ideas are never as fully realised as perhaps they deserved to be. But as a debut, the promise it shows is phenomenal, and as an object lesson in the virtues of restraint, it would be pretty hard to beat.
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