"Maybe With You" by The Boy Who Invented EverythingReview
A few weeks after dedicating ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Eleven' to "Gus" Chambers, I'm able to review a release by one of his comrades in original Coventry punk band Squad: Sam Mcnulty (check out Sam's tribute to Gus in the album credits).
Gus moved onto other loud and transgressive types of music, culminating in Mantra Sect whose "Mercytron" is also on HMLP 11, but Sam's musical journey moved in a different direction, pretty much straight into classy indie pop-rock via another iconic local band The Giraffes (whose classic "Lazy Hazel Heart" can be found on HMLP 7) which then reduced to Two Giraffes ("Clifftop Dreaming" is on HMLP 1). For the last few years he has been writing & performing as a solo act, latterly under the moniker of The Boy Who Invented Everything (check out "Angel of Anarchy" on HMLP 6).
Sam's constant collaborator through the Giraffes was the late Steve Edgson and he has kept the connection going as his current one is Steve's colleague from the Reluctant Stereotypes and the Pink Umbrellas (this piece is certainly namechecking some superb bands isn't it?), Paul Sampson (whom you'll also know from all his work with The Primitives amongst huge numbers of other artists).
Between them, I gather they've now got enough songs for three albums (or a triple) and in terms of what you hear, Sam wrote them & sings while production & all instruments (apart from the Sekine Strings) are courtesy of Paul.
First out of the gate from this impressive collection are three tracks which are on an EP.
The title track "Maybe With You" must be Sam's best known song (I suggested to him that it was his signature piece) as I can't remember ever hearing him not play it at any gig. Obviously very personal & dear to his heart, I already possess an earlier recording which was earmarked for a putative ‘From the Land of the Broken Hearts' album, but between them Sam & Paul demonstrate that relentless perfectionism which brings artists like them back to songs repeatedly to find the "right" way of presenting it on record.
"Coal Black Morning Light" and "Come In Out of the Rain" were not on the collection of earlier recordings I have, but I know them from live events (the latter as much as "Maybe With You") and I think it's fair to suggest that there has been a general process underway wherein hitherto guitar based songs have evolved into the sort of arrangements of which the likes of Burt Bacharach have been renowned.
Is this a bad thing? Of course not. For those of us used to other arrangements, some adjustment is in order but frankly if Sam is capable of assenting to the development of his compositions then we should too.
After my personal adjustment, I've actually come to the conclusion that maybe Sam & Paul are taking them home to where they belong. It's not particularly surprising that in their original incarnations, they veered towards both The Giraffes and Sam's beloved Bunnymen: in any case as Sam performed them solo on his guitar most of the time, being guitar based was the only show in town.
The fact is however that Sam's writing since the punk days owes more to traditional schools & approaches like the Gershwins, Cole Porter or indeed Burt Bacharach than it does to rock… Paul, with both his encyclopaedic knowledge of music & preference for the tasteful, presumably spotted that the best fit was this one.
We like celebrating diversity in the magazine and via "Hot Music Live Presents" and that means taking on prejudice in all its small minded forms. I think that assumptions that ways of working and playing become so established that they "stick" are unhelpful (music should be judged surely on merits rather than ANY preconceptions) and if you require three tracks which are hard empirical evidence of artists who have been highly regarded for fifty years & released music throughout that period yet can participate in a paradigm shift in relation not even to creating new tracks but n regarding existing composition, here it is.
It finally I think makes it clear to anyone that a writer known for kick-starting the local punk scene is really the area's top romantic. However, to balance that, I must emphasise that for donkey's years, musicians, especially those coming from rock directions (The Beatles included) have been mighty wary of putting strings on records for fear of being seen as veering towards the schmaltzy and hence wiping out their credibility. I think the answer is that that's fair enough but if you work with the likes of Paul, the danger is prevented. (It's worth noting too that through his collaboration with Pandora (who supported him at his recent record launch at The Arches), the 'Who's Blue' project on their Love and Madness label, artists of the calibre of Dean MacDonald & Jack Blackman also worked with Paul and the Sekine Strings to similar effect).
Given that the songs have emerged like this at the end of a process, it's hardly surprising that amongst the tenderness there are lyrical nods to bands such as the Velvet Underground, early Roxy Music & Bowie and that the title track has also been likened to "..a modern take on the mod-driven '60's, with a distinct northern soul feel.." (which makes sense as that style also often melded rock instrumentation with tasteful strings).
Inevitably, given the developments, Sam has put together a band (it played at the event noted above) featuring Paul Quinn, Neil Ingram, Mark Russell and MamaJay to deliver a bigger sound onstage. Look out for more gigs from them & for releases of more of the songs which have been recorded.