Bark Prelude is the brainchild of Philip Lewis-Jones, a songwriter/arranger with a flair for colourful pop arrangements and grand gestures, topped off with a knowing wink. Even the group’s press release claims local Norfolk farmers describe their album as “a work of confident sensitivity which has increased milk yield in pigs, whilst others say it has been instrumental in causing crops to fail”. ‘Start Of Something Minor’ represents old-fashioned, heart-warming songcraft that is not at all self conscious in its approach.
Some decide whether they’re going to like a record based on the first track and ‘Rainbows’ is definitely one of those “love it or hate it” moments. The track introduces the idea of an almost naive kind of optimism as Lewis-Jones sings hopefully about the power of the titular phenomenon. Nevertheless, it’s a winning start. ‘America America America’ is a lot more cynical but its swish arrangements verge on 1980’s high camp, whereas ‘Move Away From London’ wouldn’t sound out of place in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. These prove to be the rare moments when Lewis-Jones misfires because elsewhere, there are many positives to be discovered. ‘Festival’ and ‘Ether Ghost’ are superbly arranged songs which marry a “nice at dinner parties” vibe with astute lyricism, ‘Arthouse Films’ has a touch of Jacques Brel whilst ‘Why Do You Still Bug Me?’ seems like it’s going to turn into Tears For Fears’ ‘Head Over Heels’ at any moment .
Given the somewhat theatrical arrangements on ‘Start Of Something Minor’, sometimes it’s hard to decide whether Lewis-Jones is a singer/songwriter or someone with ambitions for the stage. Yet at his best, his style is reminiscent of Prefab Sprout or China Crisis: music that is concerned about being melodic rather than sounding trendy and edgy.
China Crisis, Prefab Sprout, The Big I Am