‘Another Life or Two' by Green HandsReview
Released today is the new EP ‘Another Life or Two' by one of the bands which has most impressed me over the last twelve months: Green Hands.
The good news is that it's not the only EP by the band you can look forwards to in 2023: before even recording this one, band founder Jack Telford had already completed one with a full band lineup which will come out later this year: ‘Another Life or Two' is a more stripped back set of tracks he subsequently created with local collaborator Patch Murphy (who contributes piano & other keyboards, bass guitar and backing vocals to Jack's lead vocals, guitar & bass).
If you've been following their career through the magazine, you'll know one track already: "Style" which came out as a taster single and was reviewed last month. I hope you liked it as much as I did.
Now we also have the other three songs: "Paulie Said", "Basquiat" and "Bleeker's on the Blink". And believe me, they are as magnificent as "Style" and the preceding releases.
Apart from the obvious (objective) quality and my (subjective) great enjoyment of each, what first struck me on playing the EP was the contrast in location to the first song I heard. Whereas "Style" had me making a Nick Drake comparison with its very English style, its three companions (despite being written & recorded in Warwickshire) all have resonances with New York: maybe that's why one was released earlier & the other three as a set?
Obviously one concerns an artist synonymous with that city, another a Greenwich Village street immortalised by Simon & Garfunkel and the third, a rather jazzy folk song, seems dedicated to a figure more likely to be found in New York than Leamington. I don't know if Jack's been to New York (I bet that he has) but he certainly seems to love the place, or the idea of it.
"Paulie Said", as I myself said, manages a lush, jazz inflected mood despite the paucity of the lineup, and evokes a life in the Village, writing songs based upon close observations of the doubtless vivid characters one would see on a daily basis (it is revealing that he told me that he is "..a big fan of musicians like Arthur Russell, Stephen Steinbrink & Damon Albarn who seem to be able to write about others so well…": Jack does too.).
There is a warmth in the writing & performance & it brings out arguably his finest & most intimate vocal to date. One of the words Jack used to describe what he & Patch were aiming for in the writing was "insular", but I can't see that in any of the songs: intimate & scaled down for sure, but not insular: if anything the sound is cosmopolitan & celebratory of diverse cultures.
"Basquiat" certainly name checks the painter, but since it also involves a nod to Echo & the Bunnymen, it's not exclusively a US based song and I guess apart from working an eye catching title smoothly into the lyrics (well done), we are presumably talking tone setting here. Liking his work certainly sends clear & precise signals about how groovy his tastes are & how he'd like to be seen. Otherwise, the song is as allusive & elusive as the "meaning" of a Basquiat picture. Certainly concerning travel, both literal & in terms of career/life journeys, it also seems to ponder on ambitions, expectations, aspirations & realities: "the price of the ticket is never worth the show" seems the key message.
"Bleeker's On The Blink" reminds me somewhat of early (solo) Ben Watt: another gorgeous stripped back set of jazz chords & sparse snare work providing a setting for another unsettling narrative of a man (who's given the name of the famous street), perching perilously on the edge of potential disaster.
Re-evaluating "Style" now I've heard its comrades, what you get are four complementary vignettes: compassionate in tone yet not sparing realistic insights: Jack practising his writing about other people (I can't tell whether he knows any of these individuals intimately nor how much is fictional: which shows how neatly they've been written. They pertain to friendships he has had over the last decade or so, so clearly elements are based on genuine people, but since apparently they are a mixture of his perspectives of others and the viewpoints of others, it's hard to pick which is which. Not that it matters really.) and choosing to do so on a reduced scale musically: which is fitting, respectful & human scaled. That he & Patch have the skills to do so & create music which regardless of the lyrics is so enticing is much to their credit & certainly makes one wonder what the full band tracks will sound like: possibly he'll go for completely different subjects when he has a fuller arrangement available?
Something else I'd very much like to bring to your attention is that ‘Another Life or Two' is released via Stingo, a DIY label/collective he's founded with James Knight (who features on the larger scale Green Hands recordings) which features musicians & artists and they hope to promote shows in Leamington, bringing in artists they admire from outside the area, so please watch this space on those matters too.