Unkle Bob: Invisible
Available 7th October
Unkle Bob return with Invisible, their magnificent first full-length album in eight years.
Just to set the scene, I will take a quote from the late, great journalist Gavin Martin, on the band. “Just imagine fellow Scots Teenage Fanclub doing full-tilt, hypnotic Neil Young-style razor rock. The spellbinding dynamics hit the bull’s eye in the centre, like a turntable spindle going into a classic vinyl album. Fab”
Sadly, Gavin isn’t around to hear this new album, which is arguably their most heart-wrenchingly beautiful album to date. Invisible sees the five original members of Unkle Bob reunited to record the album at Foel Studios in Llanfair Caereinion in Wales and a village hall in Boldron near Barnard Castle. The band also worked with James’ Saul Davies on overdubs, drum rolls and tambourines at Saul’s Poolewe studio in Scotland.
The album begins with the title track, which we reviewed previously at Louder Than War:
a song about being ignored by people and the fickle nature of the music industry. This is followed by the contemplative Before We Turned The World. Frontman Rick Webster says of the track, written in lockdown about the pandemic, “I started to realise that the pandemic was becoming something pivotal… to be referred to in terms of ‘before’ or ‘after’ the pandemic. The first verse is about speaking to a friend who didn’t have a great situation at home and the second verse is about being apart from family and friends and the amount of tension and deliberation in the situation that created new fault lines and disagreements about global and government policy.”
I Still Think About You follows. It’s about “old friends, family, girlfriends and meaningful people in my life,” says Webster, “ones that come and go; sometimes gone forever, sometimes just far away.” This leads into the previously released Safety Net. The piano-, organ-, and cello-led piece swells at points before taking a step back. Painting a reflective picture, Rick sings, “Cos every time I fall, there’s nothing there at all; I wonder did I hit the bottom yet.” Another homage to 2020 – the feeling of free-falling, and the redemption of friendship.
The following Lighter Than Snow was apparently intended to be “free and open,” until the subject matter of being exploited by a manipulative psychopath entered the mix. It’s inspired by the BBC crime drama, The Serpent, starring Tahar Rahim and Jenna Coleman which is based on the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who murdered young tourists from 1975 to 1976. What Would We Be Without Each Other, is written by guitarist Stuart Cartwright: a sentimental song about being in a band and Unkle Bob post-reunion.
Like many tracks, End Of The Century starts simply but builds with layers added throughout. The track itself being, “about looking after someone close, having their back, and trying to keep your own shit together during these crazy times.” Unkle Bob do come across as being a very serious band, however Life in Black and White, despite the romantic imagery, is, “really just about me being wasted on a beach at 3am in Turkey, staring at the stars!” says Cartwright. The following, Start Again, with the focus on “cutting out the dead wood and not being afraid to start again,” is heart-breaking.
Invisible is an album that flows and draws you in, one in which the many emotions of the songs wash over you as they take you on a journey. It is similar in some ways to the work of fellow Scot, Edinburgh born songwriter Ross Wilson, better known as Blue Rose Code.
The penultimate Transatlantic Canvas is about drummer Ron Yeadon meeting his Californian-born wife, Michelle and falling in love. At its core is a story of a teenager departing her family home for pastures new. The album closes with The Girl Who Stole The Boy From Scotland, an acoustic folky piece sung beautifully by bassist Chloe Peacock. It’s a high point of an already fantastic album, and something I’d liked to have heard more of.
It’s another breathtaking album from a band who deserve to be more than a best-kept secret.
You can catch the band live at the following shows during October:
7th – St Pancras Old Church
13th – Glasgow Hug and Pint
14th – The Witham, Barnard Castle