Meursault – Something For the Weakened
In some respects, the new material from Meursault is clearly different to what’s gone before; in others, it’s an evolution of their previous work. Up til now, Meursault’s recorded output has essentially been a four-man band trading in sparse but brilliantly melodic electro-folk, but ‘Something For the Weakened’ features a full band, with as many as six other members recording with him in an actual studio. Yes, the production values have been stepped up, but not to an overwhelming extent. After all, since when have this band been known to overdo things?
Having previously had their sound described as ‘epic lo-fi’, the fruits of what Meursault could sound like with clearer production were unleashed in a remastered version of 2010′s ‘All Creatures Will Make Merry’, which was released last year, and its sound sowed the seeds of what was to come – only this time, there’s less emphasis on keyboards and synths; there doesn’t need to be. Instead, the new album, the band’s third, ushers in something that is simultaneously more expansive and more intimate than we’ve become used to.
A case in point is the fragile opener ‘Thumb’, which makes use of a sparse arrangement as an introduction to the album, a simple, guitar-led song that gradually builds in intensity, as frontman Neil Pennycook sings the repeated line (that immediately references the album title), ‘We will not be weakened anymore’. His songs have always sought to produce an emotional response, but this time things sound considerably more hopeful, and overall, the feelings expressed have become a lot more intense. The mournful waltz of ‘Hole’ may deal with abject despair (‘These twisted little thoughts will be the ground on which you walk’), but is shot through with optimism that shines all the brighter for it: ‘There is a hole in that, and it’s a mile fucking wide … it’s nice to see you smiling’.
There is one song that is so hopeful that some will wonder if it’s by the same band; future single ‘Dull Spark’ is the band at their poppiest and arguably most confident. Whilst Pennycook is aware that life balances out, he’s not afraid to accentuates the positive: ‘For every devil, there is an angel, and for every curse, there is a prayer; for every cold, dull spark, a lightning bolt, and it’s only getting better.’ The song – perhaps the entire album – reaches its emotional peak with the chorus, a joyful ‘fuck you’ to the world’s ills: ‘You tell me that we’re all dying, and there’s a thing about that: it’s that it comes on gradually, so be kind and try to smile.’
The affecting nature of the first two albums is accented by the full-band approach to the songwriting on the third, particularly so on a majestic reworked version of ‘Lament For a Teenage Millionaire’ (the original version of which appeared on ‘Pissing on Bonfires / Kissing With Tongues’ back in 2008) and the slow-burning, seven-minute album centrepiece ‘Dearly Distracted’, the most ambitious thing the band have written thus far, and possibly the most impressive. Having said that, though, it has nine other competitors for that coveted crown; the new stuff is definitely the best we’ve heard from this band to date. Small changes can often have big impacts, and the one that inspired the sound of ‘Something For the Weakened’ has a colossal effect. The band is the same, yet different, and their new-found expansionist tendencies have produced yet another work of staggering quality. Confident, assured, at the absolute top of their game: they will not be weakened anymore.
Something For the Weakened will be released on July 16th via Song, By Toad Records, and is available to pre-order in their online shop.
Tags: 2012, album review, Gareth O'Malley, meursault, something for the weakened