Chris Helme, who first rose to prominence as the front man of John Squire’s post-Stone Roses band ‘The Seahorses’ will release his brand new solo album on August 27th. Still rightfully remembered for the anthemic Britpop classics Love Is The Law and Blinded By The Sun - songs that evoked everything the 90’s stood for, the excitement, the culture and the bands that provided a voice in a period of political and social imbalance. Present day societal context may well in fact mirror those times but the man himself, now, appears cut from an entirely different cloth.
Helme’s is an enviable back catalogue, bolstered further by his acclaimed works with The Yards, but it’s The Rookery’s knack for melody and imaginative, intricate, three-way guitar interplay that brings each track to such lush, blossoming, climaxes. Add to this Helme’s keen ear for arranging and those brooding string passages resonate even more deeply.
Recorded in just 9 days at The Rookery, a country hideaway nestled in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, the album reveals a beguiling vulnerability in both Helme’s voice and lyrics. The wonderfully restrained Darkest Days’ somber refrain, ‘Following you, leads me astray’, rings out with the sentiment of changing direction, putting paid to past misdemeanors, while on the forthcoming single Long Way Round, Helme is found resolute in his plaintive cry, ‘Now you’ve found yourself, you’re on your own’. An apt lyric indeed as his solo path turns this dramatic corner.
There is plenty on offer here as Chris and producer Sam Forrest (Nine Black Alps) showcase their depth of sonic understanding as fuzzed out guitars are married with distorted Mellotron, melting strings, whistling feedback and haunting orchestral vocals. Melodies rooted in traditional folk structures are vividly reimagined on an album of startlingly rich variation. Even the Rolling Stones’ stomp of Daddy’s Farm bookended between the blues filth of Pleased and the gorgeously mellow Summer Girl, doesn’t stick out, testament to Helme’s most powerful weapon – his voice.
This aspect to his music was never in question. From the earliest days of his career, his voice always commanded attention, and The Rookery’s variation is seemingly bound by this one continuous thread. File next to CSN&Y, Led Zeppelin 3, Buckley, The Coral, and enjoy.