I’ll let you into a secret, I don’t approach music from relatively new bands expecting to be blown away, or possibly even entertained. I know, total herecy but I feel I have to level with you… The ‘panning for gold’ metaphor may be a bit hackneyed but is also pretty spot on. How much mediocrity do you need to sift through before that rare moment when you see the gleam of the real thing?
Sometimes people will say, ‘but you love everything’, of course the reality is that life’s too short to write about music you don’t love and therefore want others to hear, so what you read about here is a sampling of the cream of the crop uninfluenced by commerce or fashion. Amazingly once upon a time people were paid to gleefully write takedowns of all your favourite bands, I vividly remember smarting as the Melody Maker or NME ripped my treasured artists to pieces without mercy or ceremony. It seems like a far away world now, as Destroyer/Dan Bejar wistfully sang, ‘Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, all sound like a dream to me.’
But back to the present and the question is: where does that leave Margot, fool’s gold or precious metal?
Well, as ever, Estella was way ahead of me with Margot and picked up on their charms over two and a half years ago. So, I’m arriving at the party indecently late…
I’ve always been easily seduced by song titles. Think of all those Motown songs: you just had to hear Standing in the Shadows of Love from the moment you saw those words on paper didn’t you? Falling In Between Days has a similar effect for me, I guess you either do or don’t recognise that feeling, or maybe at least crack a smile at Margot cheekily smuggling in a Cure song. Still waters run deep here, somber, effects laden guitars breaking into a restrained jangle, drums spare and subtle until we break into the open with a near ecstatic chorus. Both musically and lyrically a picture is painted of the painful contrast between feeling lost and alone, pushed to the margins of your own life, yet maybe only a few steps away from some sort of epiphany. Alex Hannaway’s vocals, in particular the phrasing and intonation, leave me with a nagging feeling I’m listening to Gerry Rafferty’s spiritual heir, no sax breaks here, but Margot mainline a similarly potent urban street scene melancholy, imagine if Nick Drake had tried rocking out, gently of course.
Walk With Me has a similar feel, guitars crystalline but rising to bite when needed, before falling away again. There’s a sense of listless days spent feeling numb and confused, but these are ultimately tender songs of understanding, empathy and hope, an arm around your shoulder in difficult times. If you’re looking for an articulation of the paralysing strangeness of depression you may find some clarity in lines like this, ‘there’s a mist camping in my mind, taking every object it can find.’ If you recognise that, you have my sympathy.
Not a single note is wasted, much in the same way a band like Wire eliminate the unnecessary, leaving only what is absolutely needed to convey the mood of a song.
We’re in that most precious of musical situations, immediate and dramatic intimacy. It wouldn’t matter if Margot became the biggest band on the planet, it would still feel like they were playing just for you, quite a trick to pull off, much like the feeling you get listening to your favourite radio show, alone, late at night.
There is certainly pain and frustration beneath the impressively precise surface of Margot’s music, a real life tale of ambitions on hold and temporarily crippling depression. But they know that holding back is a powerful thing – this is music full of space and nuance, it can cut you where it hurts, but with a surgical precision. These songs ebb around you like fine mist, melodic twists enveloping then dissipating, the level of deceptively simple beauty resonating long after each listen. Ironically possibly a talent that will find a larger audience.
So yeah, it’s precious metal, but I suspect you guessed that already. The moral for today? Never assume the best music has already been made because someone, somewhere is just about to prove you wrong…
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