Listening to Dead Leaf Echo you could be forgiven for thinking this is 1991 again such is the devotion to the dreampop/shoegaze era on their records thus far. They’ve even got 4AD figureheads John Fryer and Vaughan Oliver to produce the record and design the sleeve. As their first release dates back to 2007, it’s hard to believe that this is their first album but it’s certainly an ambitious one since ‘Thought & Language’ stretches beyond the hour long mark and is a concept album in more ways than one, as it covers the birth of a child and its early journey of discovery.
‘Conception’ immediately takes you back to early 1990’s when The Pale Saints were in their pomp. LG’s outwardly insouciant but somehow threatening (dare I mention passive/aggressive?) vocals are immediately apparent. ‘Kingmaker’ contains an irresistible jangly shoegaze melody and it’s not the first track to offer these qualities. There’s a tendency for the frontman to sing in a fey, murmuring style, perhaps in keeping with classic shoegaze tradition but when the music hits a dip, as on the murky, Wolfgang Press-esque ‘Gesture’, it almost sounds like the singer has lost interest too. It is gratfiying, however, that these dips are few in number.
‘Internal’ seems set to burst in a storm of guitars, ‘Language Of The Waves’ rides on a beautiful crest of effects and even though ‘Birth’ repeats its melody, the relentlessness of it all is matched by the hooky reward (speaking of which, ‘Dream Of The Soft’ features a bassline which Peter Hook would be proud of). Best of all is ‘Child’; a classic slow start/big finish song where the early parts of the track sound like mid-80’s Cocteau Twins and then build into a breathless arrangement of ringing guitars and LG’s angsty performance. After this peak at the centre of the record, what happens after is more like a comedown, albeit a dreamy, thoroughly pleasant comedown.
Overall, ‘Thought & Language’ is slightly too long to be defined as a great album. However, it is most certainly abundant with great songs and great moments and the birth concept is adhered to in both lyrical and musical form. Furthermore, the record is a must have for those clamouring for the vintage years of the 4AD label.
The Pale Saints