ALBUM REVIEW: Gentle Sinners - These Actions Cannot Be Undone

8/10

Gentle Sinners

Gentle Sinners release their debut album; These Actions Cannot Be Undone. Followers of the Scottish Alternative Music scene will recognise the names of the collaborators, James Graham of The Twilight Sad and Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat. On These Actions Cannot Be Undone, the pair delivers a recording that forces them into a fuzzed-out power rock offering.

These Actions Cannot Be Undone displays Graham confronting his long-held anxieties over Moffat’s swirling orchestrations and blatant guitars. Throughout the release, the long-time friends bounce off each other, testing one another as only good friends can. The resulting album is equally playful, experimental and effervescent as they drop genre boundaries pushing the edges of their music-making envelope.

The origins of Gentle Sinners stirred in February 2021, as both men were bouncing against the walls during the third lockdown from Covid in the UK. The music world was beginning to wonder if live music performances would survive the pandemic or become yet another of Covid’s victims. Graham has expressed to Moffat his desire to do another project outside of The Twilight Sad, along the lines of his Conflats project but was not sure how or what to do. Moffat suggested he look no further and that they should work together. Moffat would take on music and production duties, and Graham would provide songwriting and the vocals. What would result was funked-out sonics with an introspective anxious core.

The album would once again reveal Graham fighting the contradiction of fearing personal one on one encounters while projecting his innermost feelings to a large listening audience. That contradiction would fuel the lyrical themes of the project. The writing would come easily even if the subject matter was tough.

These Actions Cannot Be Undone begins with “Waiting for Nothing”, a dreamy opener with Depeche Mode style sonics. Graham excoriates society’s impatience, where we are addicted to immediate gratification often served up by our phones and social media. We have learned to wait for nothing, “waiting for nothing just give me something to carry on.” Graham’s vocals display another facet of his range while still beguiling the listener with their straightforward delivery. “Killing This Time” draws on an insistent disco wave throb while discussing killing time during the pandemic, fighting boredom and insanity. The lyrics' centre is the insistent mantra, “Take everything you care about, you’ve got to live without.” Graham points out how desperate society has gotten because of the fear, turning to quack cures and superstitions.

The fantastic drum pyrotechnics are at the forefront of “Let Them Rot”, as the lyrics point out how our leaders deflect and circle around telling us the truth. They don’t want to scare the horses when it is too late, and we demand the answers even if we don’t like them. The track mirrors the disturbing reflection of the mayhem that proceeds as we go through this nightmare event. “The Cries” returns to the themes of the opener, looking at information overload as the loudest voices get all the attention and the majority suffer in silence. Graham sums up the track by asking, “How to make the happy last?” over an explosive supporting soundtrack.

“Date and Sign” is a “Don’t Miss Track” on the release with its Bristol beat trip-hop feel. The lyrics follow a relationship falling apart as Graham declares no one is innocent in the breakup of a relationship. The union's dissolution is finalised by dating and signing all the paperwork, but the heartbreak remains. “Rent Free” is yet another “Stand-out track.”  Over heavy, impressive percussion, the lyrics take on the topic of allowing the world's nonsense to live rent-free in the mind. We are being gaslighted to think that those who have the microphone care about your opinion and are using you for narcissistic fuel. By the end of the track, Graham comes to the realisation that nothing worthwhile is free and something for nothing is a fallacy.

“Shores of Anhedonia” is the most experimental track on the offering.  Combined are a loud/quiet technique and spoken word sections that create the feeling of a disjointed dream. Throughout, the narrator is looking for answers and realises that quest can be extremely messy and wonders if it is worth it. The prerelease track “Face to Face (after Nyman) is an absolute corker. Filled with shoegaze buzz and fuzz, the track is fearlessly terrifying and contains hooks galore, a must-listen. The track is a marriage of early The Twilight Sad and hallmark fingerprints of Moffat’s Arab Strap works, blended to deliver an alluring song.

The last two selections slow things down. The inspired “Don’t Say Goodnight” is a lullaby processed through the works of Radiohead’s Amnesiac and Sufjan Stevens’ more experiential fare. On display is a lonely soul with a fear of the dark and insomnia, pleading to not be left alone, allowing the monsters from under the bed free reign to do their worst. The action all transpires over a pulled around sonic that morphs into a fuzz/jazz cacophony. “Landfill” closes the album with snare drums and horns as the lyric announces,” Welcome to the landfill, everything is downhill”. This lyrical invitation offers to wade through the trash to find what to keep and what to discard. The realisation is that we are all accidents waiting to happen as we each day get closer to our own personal finish line. This final track ends with the same fearless determination as to the entire album.

These Actions Cannot Be Undone is a dream offering from two icons of the current Scottish indie music world. Each participant in the collaboration jumps their own genre boundaries to deliver a soul-cleansing confessional over an engaging musical canvas. The recording offers up an epic set of defiance, emotion and revelation.  The ten tracks explore mental well-being, abuse of power, accountability, and hope. All the while showcasing Moffat’s stellar musical sensibilities and Graham’s vocal power and lyrical development. This may be a one-off pandemic project but is certainly worthy of the listener’s attention and praise.

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