Release Date 25/10/2010 (4AD)
Reviewed by Andrew Smith
Refined via demo sessions at an old distillery grain store in the Scottish Highlands, Let Me Come Home has a sound that evokes its gestation – expansive, isolated, desolate and beautiful.
Broken Records themselves have the sound of a folk band that gradually augmented into something louder and wider, and indeed these songs began acoustically, written in singer Jamie Sutherland’s kitchen.
From here, further instrumentation has been added with care, forming small parts of a wider tableau with each part complementing each song rather than dominating. Further listening is like looking through clearing eyes, as disparate elements blend and melodies become distinct, edging over the parapet and into your musical consciousness.
Acoustic origins or not however, there are several songs here that are intended to quicken the pulse. The insistent rhythms and cinematic drama of ‘Modern Worksong’ have an urgency that demands attention – the title perhaps a nod to the early REM output that partly inspired this album. Bruce Springsteen is apparently also an influence and lead single ‘A Darkness Rises Up’ does have an anthemic quality, being melodic and climactic with folky violin.
However, while its sweeping choruses could yet win hearts and minds beyond their current following, ‘You Know You’re Not Dead’ ploughs a similar tract and deploys its charms to even greater effect. The falsetto vocals and middle eight hit giddy heights of emotional intensity, Sutherland laying himself bare amid the earnest melodrama.
Indeed, there’s no hiding behind metaphor here, unless Sutherland is operating on some level of post-modernist irony beyond my ken – lyrical snippets such as “my aching heart”, “burn a pattern across the soul”, and “with you in my arms” leave little room for ambiguity.
‘Motorcycle Boy Reigns, The’ boldly declares “to the ocean we will go”, Sutherland initially full of dreams and hope, before warning, “if the land won’t stop us first”, with the cautious air of one who has known disappointment. Disarmingly immediate in an album full of slow-burners, this contains one of the finer vocal performances on the album.
Perhaps finer still is ‘Dia Dos Namorados!’, seemingly an 11th hour attempt to ignite romance within a relationship that is either dying or stillborn. This duet features Jill O’Sullivan of Sparrow and the Workshop doubling Sutherland’s mournful vocal, who, although disappointingly low in the mix, lends a rich texture and contrast. This reviewer would be pleased if more bands incorporated the word “diffidence” into their lyrics too.
In all this is a fine union of classic songwriting and modern production that should age well, with the depth to avoid being a period piece and the accessibility to appeal to many.