2019 is quite a year for Richard Hawley. As well as releasing his eighth studio album Further, a musical has been released based on his songs. Standing At the Sky’s Edge premiered at his hometown, Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre earlier this year. It’s also his 20th year as a solo artist since his time in the Longpigs and Pulp. He has had a commercially successful solo career and worked alongside the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Arctic Monkeys and Paul Weller. He’s even had a song featured in an episode of the Simpsons, Tonight The Streets Are Ours and has an impressive back catalogue.
Further starts with Off My Mind combining gravelly vocals, crunchy guitars and a touch of mandolin. Alone is jaunty despite its sad lyrics. I love the orchestration particularly the violins that give you goosebumps. “Do you know exactly how I feel, do you know, you’re someone in my place”? This stands out for me.
The beginning of My Little Treasures is like being wrapped up in a warm blanket with a hot mug of cocoa. It’s a soothing aural balm, an ode to being grateful for life. “Look at all these stars.” Then the middle section turns haunting and yearning. (It was inspired after meeting friends of his late father who died in 2007 and took 12 years to record).
Further has a mellow country feel whilst Emilina Says is a simple yet poignant ballad apparently about suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. These songs are both languid and relaxed in melody. By contrast, Is There a Pill completely cranks it up a few notches. It’s an orchestrated bundle of Roy-Orbison like vocals mixed up with grungy acoustics. (Think the Manics Design for Life and you’ll love it).
Galley Girl is another grungy guitar fest meets Calamity Jane western-like ditty. Time Is is a philosophical study of time and ageing. “Time is on your side right now, but time will change”. It’s got a great harmonica searing throughout and packs a punch. “We were born from sand and sand we will return.” Doors a melancholic song about taking psychedelic drugs aptly closes the album.
This is a beautifully crafted album of jagged rock n roll meeting mellow and reflective on the same street. This is ultimately a contemplative album with life-affirming notes.