The danger that comes with rational thought and pragmatism is a pride that can be reduced to mere folly when men shy away from what lies underneath their own personas. Whistle And I’ll Come to You, My Lad – LOVECRAFT’s debut album title – digs at this.
Taken from a Jonathan Miller TV adaptation of an M R James ghost story, it could be perceived as a curious title for Lovecraft’s first born. However, if you’ve seen the programme, with Michael Horden wandering on a slate grey beach matched by a black and white sky, it is as awkward and creepy as it gets.
I popped round to Craig Sinclair’s home (Vocals/Summonings – according to the band’s Facebook page), just off Faulkner Square, for a cup of tea … and an attempted séance. It soon became clear, however, that dead people don’t talk. The attempted encounter with the other side did provide me with the opportunity to meet Melanie Little (Backing Vocals/Percussion/Necromantic Dance), Chris Jackson (Rag And Bone Guitar/Ouija Board), Claire Dowling (Vocals/Percussion/Grave Announcements), Phillip Newton (Combat Guitar/Champion Of Light), Simon Patrick Gabriel (Bass/Crusts/Bastard Stacker), Robi Morris (Drums/Star Blasts) and Nick Hunt (Trumpeter/Blessed Teachings). Following the experience, Craig and I traverse Huskisson Street and on into Peter Kavanagh’s, which itself adds to the night’s phantasmal theme, being well-established on various Liverpool ghost tours and all.
Lovecraft released their debut album on Probe Plus in May, and played a pulsating performance at the album’s release party at a packed Mello Mello, where they were joined onstage by members of a.P.A.t.T. and Outfit. They then supported Half Man Half Biscuit at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and took it like the Greeks took Troy. Craig explains: “I always looked upon performance as an essential part of the heady mix that attracts you to a band. I love people such as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Lene Lovic”; who both, amongst others, come up as we chat over a pint. Craig has an exuberant showmanship that inhabits a theatre all of its own, and even when his guard is lowered there is a continued air of an avant-garde experiment. He is smart, wearing a cravat, and looks a bit like a young Stephen Fry dressed by Ted Hughes after hanging out with Vic and Bob. Jarvis Cocker springs to mind, even an English vaudevillian version of the Flaming Lips – which sounds less surprising after you’ve listened to the album. It’s opener, One For The Furnace, boils in Cocker-paced fashion. “I love Pulp, they play pop” says Craig. And that’s the thing with Lovecraft, in a decade a bit like the last one (and the one before), showmanship seems to have existed on the periphery, a second place to the languid cool where many shoes were counted. “This band is almost ten years in the making, with countless line ups. We think that this one is the right mix,” adds Craig.
Featuring former members of Balloons and Zombina, plus current members of Organ Freeman, they can all play, boy can they play. Some of the songs sound so joyous on stage that it is easy to forget the demented twists and turns down many a musical back alley. This is where I think some writers get it wrong about Lovecraft. The label ‘progressive’ obviously has a point, but it limits the reader’s imagination of what they’re going to get. There is no excess fat to the band’s debut album. Everything is trimmed lean for the song. It’s pop with some progressive undertones. Take The Telepathist; you will not hear a catchier, more twisted love song this year, where lyrics including, ‘I don’t know where to start, shoot me’ and ‘when you get out of the hospital, sure to come look me up’ are crooned. The subject matter is comic-grim with Sibelius/Strawberry Switchblade turning up at the end to pop the cherry on the cake. Hells Teeth is another absolute gem. I defy anyone after listening to it not to have the refrain jammed in their brain. At under two and a half minutes it’s a perfect (forgive me) ‘indie’ disco floor filler. They’re not all like this. Uprooting, with kitten-cute backing vocals is a gentle paean to companionship. Little Bones is the album’s closer and a sad, exquisite way to end it. Tears of a clown come to mind, with images of the performer removing his make-up whilst looking into a well-used mirror, alone. Lovecraft are vulnerable too, as the last words on Little Bones lament: ‘I think no one likes me, they always seem to disappear whenever I’m around’. God bless them.
With an aesthetic that glides between odd British sci-fi TV and strange Old Grey Whistle Test moments, as well as a commitment to performance, Lovecraft are indeed a spectacle. Craig beams that “a mini summer tour is being arranged and will be announced shortly. We’re thrilled with the album and look forward to making you weak at the knees.” Add their growing stage spectacle to a startling debut album and it can only provide proof that good things are on the horizon for Lovecraft. It would be mere folly to ignore this band and what lies beneath.