From Galaxie 500 to Gravenhurst there have been guitar bands yearning to turn things down a little, to be the kind of sensitive indie kids their groupies could take home to meet their mums. Brushed snares and pauses, hints of Americana, songs about heartache, loss, and long straight highways, Rickenbackers with just a touch of overdrive and plenty of reverb, all sounding like a chill-out session with Buffalo Tom. It’s a well-trodden path and if you’re going to walk it you need the songs and you need the voices. A pretty production alone is not going to cut it. Unfortunately that’s just about the best thing that Sennen’s new album has going for it.
There’s no denying that “lost Harmony” sounds exquisite. Producer David M Allen has made sure all the elements are there. It’s an earthy, soulful and melancholic sound, guitars, bass and drums assembled like gourmet ingredients waiting to be combined into the perfect 5 star dish. The problem is that they’re not instrumentals. Eventually the voices start up and the dish is ruined. Larry Holme and Rich Kelleway have to share the blame here and they both have exactly the same weakness, which is that they sound like fay teenage indie kids with absolutely no experience of what they’re singing about. Of course they’re not kids at all, these guys look every inch the band that’s been going for 10 years, but sometimes you can’t help how you sound. These problems are compounded by the lyrical content which never fails to go for the easy rhyme and meaningless platitude.
Sennen ‘Wasted Heart’
It’s such a shame because musically there’s promise. The intro, “Colder” starts with a lovely electric guitar line gently coming in slowly from a distance, “I’ve been here for a little while, I’m a little older, I’m a little colder” is sung over the repeating riff that builds quickly then elegantly dissolves into dissonance. It’s a fabulous and brief opener that raises hopes for the rest of the album. Unfortunately this is atypical of the rest of the album where the full-length songs are much more straightforward and two-dimensional, and the singing is given full opportunity to wreak havoc. “learn to love the dark”, “wasted heart”, no coming back”, and others all aim for the same quiet country-tinged indie formula and it soon leads to predictability. “Vultures” tries to break the mould with a heads down chugger of a track. Guitars chime with purpose, James Brown swaps his brushes for proper sticks and kicks his bass drum enthusiastically, but again the feeble vocals undermine the rocky mood the song is desperately trying for. “I got nothing” tries to lighten things up a bit but ends up sounding like a school band covering Teenage Fanclub.”Standing Still” starts and ends with some nice acoustic strumming but ends up being noteworthy only for the weakest vocals to be heard on the entire album, which is really saying something.
I wanted to like this. I really did. My own record collection is packed with the kind of music that’s inspired “Lost Harmony”. Unfortunately Sennen just don’t convince. It’s not a lack of talent, it’s simply a lack of audible authenticity. You don’t win anything with kids said Alan Hansen once. You don’t win anything sounding like kids either.