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Villagers - 'Ship Of Promises'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:24 UK time, Friday, 30 July 2010


Oh this is a deep hot bath of a song, isn't it? Feel the sumptuous depths in those drums, pounding away distantly as if from the inside of some creaky old copper pipes. Marvel at the intricate way the guitars mesh together, like the intertwined metal on an ornamental soap dish.

Wade through the murky organ (no jokes, it's only a bath) and whispering steam, sounding as close to a human voice as you could imagine, so close you could swear there were actual words. And then flail around under the surface, to try and locate the melody flannel, which slipped down beneath the harmoniously bubbly waves, never to be seen again.

Oh how we will miss that flannel (which in this slightly overcooked analogy is the tune). It's the only thing which is missing from what is otherwise a perfect bathing experience, and its absence is starting to grate. We need it. You can't really have a good hot bath like this without the means to wash yourself properly, really get into the hard-to-reach areas - like right inside your ears - and the rhythm sponge, while vital, just won't cut the mustard.

Before you ask, no there's no musical loofah. That would be ridiculous.

(Here's the video. It's saturated.)

NOW, the reason we're even talking about Villagers and this song is that there's been a Mercury nomination. The album 'Becoming A Jackal' has won over the panel of judges and thrust the slightly shy-looking but awfully intense Conor O'Brien - for he IS Villagers - blinking and coughing into the limelight. This means his music is going to be assessed by people who do not normally appreciate this kind of thing, or indeed anything like this kind of thing, and it will be dismissed before it has had a chance. If this does happen - it'll be ten times worse if he wins the thing - it will be a shame.

On the other hand, one would hope the Mercury nom will encourage a wave of floating voters to finally stop wondering IF they should get this album they've heard so much about and damn well commit. And with this song as a calling card, surely that is what is going to happen, right?

Well...maybe. Without meaning to side with the dismissives, there are a couple of problems with this song in particular which may hinder progress to the album at large. I've taken the trouble of listing them. If they do not bother you, you may proceed to your local music emporium without further delay:

Potential problem 1: Del Amitri. Just saying.

Potential problem 2: That lost tune. It's great when the instruments seem to buzz in atonally and then resolve, like spikes in the mist that then melt into falling leaves, but Conor's mellifluous wheeze needs something solid to rest on, all the way through to the end of each line if possible. Or he runs the risk of just droning his way through his own pretty song like a mad monk.

Potential problem 3: If Conor O'Brien was ever in the same room as Conor Oborst, the Universe would implode. THERE I SAID IT.

OK, now you're free to go.

Three starsDownload: Out now

BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Indie Blips says: "Ship of Promises draws you in and simply won't let go."

Artrocker says: "This is a highly fulfilling piece of music that only gets better on repeated listens."

Electric Whipcrack says: "Bit cheesy."


  • Comment number 1.

    How did Del Amitri get Mercury nominated ?

    I am sorry but , Nothing Ever Happens , Stone Cold Sober ,Kiss This Thing Goodbye ,Move Away Jimmy Blue , Always The Last To Know and Don't Come Home Too Soon all moved me far more than this .

    This guy sounds more like Justin Currie , than what Justin did .

    When Villagers are no more , he can always form a Del Amitri tribute band !

    They could be called - Rings a Bell , Amitri .

  • Comment number 2.

    Come on Fraser , give us what we want .

    If you are reviewing singles by Mercury nominated artists , then review the brilliant single that is currently on the Radio 1 "A" list !

    The XX - Islands

    I am sure that will please a lot of folk here .

    (That is of course if you, if you would like to please us ! You could still be in your tired , emotional and "what I say goes "phase . )

    The XX PLEASE.

    xx (The last 2 letters are kisses handsome) :)

  • Comment number 3.

    This song keeps you waiting and waiting for a chorus that never really happens. Even Justin Currie's cousin Nicholas can create more pop nous than is apparent here. A shame because there is talent clearly in the lyrics and build up.

  • Comment number 4.

    So The XX win the Mercury Music Prize for Best Album .

    I did ask for a mention of this brilliant band at comment 2 .

    Now come on Chart Blog open your ears and do a feature on this award winning trio.

    Credit has been given , and credit is now due here .

    Who agrees ?

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree! Loved the XX since before they were big ;D

  • Comment number 6.

    On the topic of Mercury prize winners? Is there anyone who DISAGREES with the choice of The XX? I'm happy they won, but I would have just as been happy if Corrine Bailey Rae's 'The Sea' had won. She poured her heart and soul into that thing, I believe every single word in that album because they're sung with so much sincerity.

  • Comment number 7.

    I thought Wild Beasts should have won, I love that album with a passion, but the XX are definately in my top 3 out of all the nominations. I'm glad Mumford and Sons didn't win though, they were alright when they were reasonably well-known but now every single 15 year old in the country seems to love them and it's just annoying cause they're not even that good.

  • Comment number 8.

    Mmmmmm I went out and bought Wild Beasts album after the winner had been announced (I already own XX and my next choice would have been Foals but I own that too!) and Its really good, but not a winner in my eyes. I think the only ones who really stood a chance were:
    The XX, Foals, Villagers or Paul Weller.


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