The golden rule of all 80’s bands is that they will eventually have a revival, whether it’s via a tour, a deluxe reissue package or even the often dreaded promise of “new material”. Taking the brave option, ‘The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years’ is the first album from The Wild Swans in over two decades but it’s reassuring that their distinctive formula of chiming, jangly guitars and spirited, emotive vocals hasn’t noticeably changed. Erstwhile leader Paul Simpson chooses guests from far and wide including members of fellow Liverpool veterans Echo And The Bunnymen and The Christians; whose understanding of times past can only help create an authentic, vintage ambience.
The first thing which is striking is a real affection of Britain in both the trademark guitar sound and especially the lyrics. Simpson appeals to “the Treasury Man to the fish and chip van, can you hear me?”, it’s a world where “Elizabethan costume dramas” are uttered in the same verse as “cash converters” whilst Simpson fondly recalls when “Billy Fury split his keks”.
In the chiming refrain and euphoric chorus of ‘Chloroform’, they even have a song which could be desribed as anthemic. Simpson eloquently evokes English nostalgic longing in the charming ‘In Secret’, the mighty ‘Underwater’ is almost too infectious a track to be located in the middle of the album, whereas ‘Glow In The Dark’ sees the group belatedly discover dreampop.
In fact, it’s arguable this is a more consistent album than The Wild Swans’ original records. The production is glossy but the songs shine through like classic indie pop gems. Granted, the shameless nostalgia won’t float everyone’s boat but those who loved this kind of music the first time around will be in their element here.
The Lightning Seeds, The Lotus Eaters