If top 100 lists were made for unsung British songwriters then that list would certainly feature Experimental Pop Band’s Davey Woodward. Whilst never quite as experimental as the band name may suggest, Woodward is definitely an eccentric wordsmith whose ramshackle style means he is forever destined to avoid the mainstream. ‘Vertigo’ is the first new album from his current band since 2007’s ‘Tinsel Stars’ but the spirit is undiminished.
The first side to ‘Vertigo’ offers a lot of what we’ve come expect from Woodward over the years and the fondness for a grimy combination of electro-pop/glammy guitars is to the fore again. ‘Little Things’ is the first time ears will prick up, courtesy of a nagging riff and an off-key chorus and a similar trick is repeated for the infectious ‘Transit Van Superstar’. The main flaw is the rather one-paced nature of the first half that is only broken up by a song named ‘Outside’, which switches between throbbing electro and anthemic at the flick of a switch.
Side two contains much needed variation, warmer arrangements (replacing the abrasive first half’s angst) and simply better songs, beginning with the fabulous ‘The Girls With Back Combed Hair’; the kind of witty, nostalgically-infused track which ranks alongside Woodward’s best. The title track surpasses it too, thanks to some genius key changes and some surprisingly good harmonising from the band. ‘Bowling’ and ‘The Girl Wants The Boy The Boy Wants The Girl’, meanwhile, are playful and quirky; the latter even getting away with a piano melody which alarmingly recalls the theme to ‘Murder She Wrote’.
‘Vertigo’ will still be a little too oddball to win new admirers. However, for longstanding fans of Woodward’s work, the second half to the album, in particular, is a great showcase for a unique talent, ably supported by backing players sharing their frontman’s peculiar worldview.
The Fall, Earl Brutus