Meursault – ‘Crow Hill.’ (Common Grounds Records)
On his latest album, Neil Pennycook recites the phone book for forty-five minutes and takes us the listeners on an emotional rollercoaster.
Ok, a slight exaggeration, but there’s something about this act that really does pull you in grab and hold of you emotionally. Over five albums and now more than a decade, the music has developed but the essence of what made Meursault so compelling remains. It connects with that epic Scottish melancholy that goes back centuries (and no doubt will go forward that way, too). At times it surges and becomes unashamedly anthemic, as well as freaking out 17 Seconds Towers’ cat (who is quite jumpy at the best of times, but I’ve never witnessed an album impacting on him like this before, either).
It’s a loosely conceptual album, thankfully not excessively, prog-rock like. Twelve songs that take place over a single day in the fictional town of Crow Hill. The second track ‘Strong-armed Son’ encapsulates what the whole album sounds like, bringing together the gamut of emotions that occur over the whole album, building to a massive climax.
A few years back, I saw Neil supporting Lift To Experience where he played his version of ‘I Heard My Mother Praying For Me’ by Hank Williams. In the hands of Neil and co. it feels like a hymn, as does ‘Nekhla Dog.’ This review’s taken a while to write as I had to try and get into the album and get beneath it, but each successive listen (and there have been quite a few, believe me) show that this is one of their strongest records yet.
So on the second album ‘back’ (and fifth in total) Neil and co. are back doing what they do best. When Neil quit basketball to become a songwriter it was sports’ loss but music’s gain, and I think he’d do well at writing a novel or soundtracking a film on this evidence.
Crow Hill is out now on Common Grounds Records