Fair Head by Scarred Lip

Release date: March 2, 2024
Label: Self-Released

Edinburgh’s Scarred Lip are a band I was drawn to based on the loose involvement of Tony Wright (VerseChorusVerse). It turns out main man Matthew Bakewell has also spent time around Belfast’s music scene, albeit our paths have never crossed. His fine musical pedigree extends to being in bands such as Half Formed things and A Fight You Can’t Win, around the Edinburgh circuit. Enlisting bandmate Edwin McLachlan for production duties, the idea of a band began to take shape. Matthew (vocals/guitars) was joined by Ciara Webb (piano/vocals), Donal MacCarthy (bass) and Gary Crawford (drums) and they’ve released a debut extended play entitled Fair Head.

Fusing alt-country with a bit of a grunge, the EP opens with the calm ‘burn the rest’ which features an organ droning like a flickering candle. Matthew laments a beautiful melody, his voice rich and strong. Effortlessly soaring into a glorious falsetto the track ends too soon. ‘oceanthree’ kicks like a mule with an edgy beat and a throbbing swell of distorted something or other while Matthew teases out a wondrous minor key melody. The track pulses with an exciting tension and brings neck prickles when that chorus sweeps in.

A slinky programmed beat underpins ‘belfast’, which is a beauty of a song as Matthew sings with pure yearning. It’s heartbreaking. The switch between major and minor is brain twistingly good. I’m hoping that makes some kind of sense! Think you’ve heard all the hooks? You haven’t. Not content with serving you up some serious earworms, Matthew piles on yet more melodies as the song rises to an epic finale. Singing in a slightly higher register Matthew sends us into a dreamlike state with the haunting ‘dark signs’ which is gothic and taut with a moody tension. ‘catalepsy’ is a simmering downbeat track that finds Matthew utilise an underwater effect which gives a claustrophobic feel to proceedings. Closing track ‘the optimist’ bops along on a jaunty beat with a hooky earworm of a melody. There’s an eruption in volume as the song winds to a close as guitars soar.

This is a fine introductory set of recordings from a band that I can see having great potential. Matthew’s voice is the focal point here as his singing really tugs at the heart strings. He has a brilliant way with a tune and effortlessly spins out melodies with tenderness and power in equal measure. He’s ably backed by a band of excellent musicians who provide lush instrumentation to match his honeyed tones. I hope we hear more from Scarred Lip as this set of songs sets a high standard of songwriting. Highly recommended.

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