Having chosen to persevere, Six By Seven’s singer makes his solo mark.
Mike Diver 2009
Though they were loved, passionately, by a hardcore, Nottingham rockers Six By Seven never made the mainstream impact that they should have enjoyed. Their intelligent-of-lyric and fierce-of-riff fare ranks highly alongside work by Future of the Left and Shellac, and if released today would surely be worthy of five-star reviews and grander stages. Personally, their 2000 album The Closer You Get remains a favourite, its awesomely aggressive passages balanced by some of the sweetest, most affecting indie-rock writing this country has ever produced.
But the band – despite ploughing onwards after they parted company with Beggars after 2002’s The Way I Feel Today – eventually cracked under the strain of all give with little take (home), and now vocalist Chris Olley releases his first solo album. He’s experimented outside of Six By Seven before, but here he’s working under his own name, no pseudonyms to hide behind. And the result is a pleasing affair that conjures comparisons with Elliott Smith and Badly Drawn Boy.
Though these songs largely began as acoustic pieces, most are fleshed out by fuzzy amps and Mellotron purrs – nothing that’s pushing any boundaries, but every element is exact of purpose and execution, the whole a lot more impressive than the sum of its parts. There’s a warm looseness to the songs, Olley’s persona informing every couplet and gentle melody; everything feels natural, organic, far removed from the polarising, about-turn solo folkisms of Frank Turner after Million Dead’s split. There’s no reason whatsoever why fans of Six By Seven won’t immediately take to this material.
Olley soaks his vocals in echo when he feels vulnerable – Rock and Roll finds him instructing, “move on over and feel my love”, but its tenderness is veiled somewhat by hazy effects – but can comfortably carry a stark lead if the piece necessitates it. Sleepwalking, Fear is a Lie and Flying are of this variety, and each is effectively simmering of emotion without slipping into schmaltz.
“Making your mark in the world is hard,” notes Olley in his notes, quoting a certain Barak Obama. The message is one regarding piracy – please don’t copy this album, basically – but standalone words “choose to persevere” accurately summarise Olley’s career ‘til now. Perseverance can produce fine goods indeed, but it’s up to you, the public, to make them heard.