A new record from Martin Newell is a thing to be celebrated. And, yes, it is indeed a "Gorgeous Day" when one of his albums is playing (even if it's overcast and cool here outside of Washington, D.C. this September day in a way that makes me think of England). The new release, The Last Boy in the Locarno may be billed to The Cleaners From Venus but, make no mistake, most of this is the work of one Martin Newell. The album, out Tuesday via Soft Bodies Records, is another in a long string of releases from this pop wizard and the perfect thing to soundtrack a lazy Autumn day.
I've already mentioned the gentle charms of "Gorgeous Day" which arrives directly after the sublime "The Crystals and Ronettes", an ode to another era that seems one of Newell's best recent compositions. On the expert "Time Star", Newell layers the cut with some crude psychedelic effects but the song isn't meant to be part of that genre as much as it's meant to sound like something from mid-Sixties Kinks long-players. That it compares so favorably to the work of Mr. Davies says so much about both Newell's influences as it does his skill-set.
Elsewhere, Newell draws on Fifties sounds for the fun "Eight O'Clock Angel" which segues nicely into the wistful "Pearl of the Palais", all nostalgia wrapped up in crunchy chords and electronic textures. On stuff like "Voodoo Watusi" and the positively-buoyant "Victorian Doll", Newell seems to be willing to push at the boundaries of his usual arsenal of tricks as the two cuts roil and bounce with a genuine sense of the new. The superb "My Life in Film" recalls solo material from both George Harrison and John Lennon and I can think of no higher compliment than that. "How the West Was Won" closes The Last Boy in the Locarno in fine fashion, a bit of looking back with some fiery moments from Newell on the axe sprinkled throughout.
One knows what one's going to get with a Martin Newell record and that's one of the things in this world that still warms my heart. As a fan of this sort of thing, I was won over to Newell's side ages ago and, yet, I can say that perhaps newer acolytes to the Newell flame would find The Last Boy in the Locarno as wildly inviting as I do. Joined by Sis Lea on drums and Val Wollard on sax, Martin Newell has made another fine, fine record here, one that furthers his unique brand of very English indie in some small ways. Not a dud in the mix, The Last Boy in the Locarno is a set of tunes supremely listenable and effortlessly enjoyable. Dig it, kids!
[Photos and artwork: Hilary Lazell]