Meursault -’All Creatures Will Make Merry’ (Song, By Toad Records)
Meursault’s debut album Kissing With Tongues/Pissing On Bonfires crept out quietly on the Song, By Toad label at the very end of 2008. With the Edinburgh music scene gathering considerable momentum in 2009 -in no small part thanks to Song, By Toad’s Matthew Young’s hard work, their sophomore arrives eighteen months later with a considerable weight of expectation. Yes, they’re now vying with Broken Records as one of the most important scottish acts of the last couple of years. Neil Pennycook has collaborated with many of the local scene to whom he is seen -whether he wants to be or not as one of the leading figures, and he has featured on albums by the likes of Withered Hand and The Last Battle. Scottish music magazine The Skinny can be incredibly harsh on local acts, but at the end of last year the debut made a top twenty scottish albums of the decade alongside a list also featuring the likes of Mogwai, Idlewild and Primal Scream. So no pressure then…
Meursault seem by some to have been labelled as ‘folktronica;’ not a label I’m personally all that comfortable with in their case. Not because I haven’t enjoyed some music that comes under that heading - but because it implies something slightly more ‘chill out’ than this album. Yes, ‘folk’ and ‘electronica’ make up part of the musical potion on aural display here, but there’s also an epicness and grandeur (and I mean that as a compliment) that has more in common with the likes of early albums by fellow scots Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad. Though there’s far more inventiveness going on here than I find on those band’s albums, which is why I think in the long wrong Meursault will prove themselves to be such an important proposition. Second track ‘Crank Resolutions’ is heartbreaking yet somehow life-affirming in that there are bands making albums like this :’I broke down on new Year’s Day/I mixed my drinks and lost my way.’
Considered on their own, the lyric sheet to the album might give the impression that this is bleakness on a parallel with the world-weary life-view of Aidan Moffat. But there is a sense towards the end of the album that there is hope. It is an album that rewards repeated listens and is best listened to as a whole -’One Day This’ll All be Fields’ or ‘Payday’ perhaps not making much sense outside the context of the album. But that’s not a bad thing; in an age where download services mean that people are cherry-picking what they take from an album, this adds to the cohesion of the whole.
Will this break Meursault through to a wider audience? I believe so, but I’m encouraged that they haven’t abandoned the ideas, exploration and experimentation that made them so vital to begin with. This may not charge up album charts around the world, but those who take the opportunity to listen and listen again will enjoy a highly accomplished and brilliant second album.
All Creatures Will Make Merry is out now on Song, By Toad Records.