Here Come The Rattling Trees
I loved The High Llamas – a decade or so ago, collected up whatever I could find. Like a slightly drearier version of The Wondermints, this was lovely, yearning, Beach Boys-aping adult pop music. Never as twee and fawning as Belle & Sebastian but a bit too pleased-with-itself/record-collection-pop to truly mean anything on its own. The High Llamas feel more like a museum than a band and principal songwriter Sean O’Hagan does his best to carve out monuments to existing songs, rather than making anything truly – totally – new.
Fairplay through, he does it so well.
I’d forgotten about them. That happens…
This new album is the soundtrack to a stageshow – a play, a set of monologues – and so its opening overture (you’d think it’s a play called SMiLE by the musical hues) puts us right in that space, gives us hints of what’s to come – a lot of instrumental moments and segues and score-like cues, as well as some actual songs.
We also get a few moments that reference the bedsit-era of Paul McCartney in his first post-Beatles bursts of activity; no broad bow to draw there, since McCartney was so clearly enamoured with Brian Wilson’s mid/late-60s colours and strokes.
So here, then, is yet another High Llamas album. It’s quite great – at times. And a little facsimile too. When you can’t find the real thing you can always reach for this. And though that comes across as the worst kind of back-hander it’s also the reality here. Nice. Pleasant. But when you’ve got Ram and McCartney and all your Beach Boys albums still you only need this when you can’t find them or need a quick breather. You have to assume O’Hagan would take that as a great compliment. He’d be silly not to.