The Hobbes Fanclub | Up At Lagrange
by Lee Adcock
It’s true. Psychocandy never moved me. Maybe I’m too young.
But what I do appreciate, and what I imagine others recall fondly, too, is how much swathes of space were cut in the mid- to late-eighties. From the lingering burn of Galaxie 500 and Red House Painters, to the magenta haze shrouds of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, to the astral heartache of Spaceman 3, some gathering of souls were freezing their own moments in time. Probably wasn’t a conscious gathering of any sort – and how could it be – but nevertheless those eternities coalesced into an ethereal plane drifting away from the jangly C86 lot.
Some twenty years on, lines mingle. On Up At Lagrange, the Bradford-based The Hobbes Fanclub strike some balance between skipping and floating, between basking on rooftops and sharing mixtapes in basements. Like the lovely cover art suggests, the vocals resonate with the reverb of the cosmos – but the songs, with their bright pop structures and romantic scenarios, are grounded firmly on this planet, in the here and now.
Shortly after I received my copy of this album, I found an earlier version of “Your Doubting Heart”, a storming single with very maroon undertones, from the 2012 Indietracks compilation. Even then, the Hobbes ached from their bleeding hearts – but the LP cut, CHIRST. Some genius lifted the bare bones from the single and added flesh, muscle, and mind. Once it raced, and now it soars.
The same lush treatment permeates the entire album – and in some cases, such as the double-punch upbeat between ‘The Boy From Outer Space‘ and ‘I Knew You’d Understand‘, you do pine for some shadowy contrast. But ‘Run Into The Sea‘ blends that timeless (i.e -> from the Beach Boys to the JAMC to the House of Love) pop mentality with a beefy bass urgency; ‘Stay Gold‘ weds a glittering jangle with massive stomping cascades of longing,
But, to reach the fiery nebulas on the sleeve, one must plunge into the very soul of the album, its eternal moments. ‘How Could You Leave Me Like This‘ – well, the title speaks for itself, don’t it? Ay, sometimes they betray you, titles, but this one can’t lie –the abandoned lover, the one left in the rain after the show, the one too shy to invite you over but always came when you called, always listened and never demanded anything carnal. (How could you, you bastard/bitch?) In the same vein, two tracks down, shimmers the aching and equally devastating ‘Why Should You Tell The Truth‘ (again, titles), with just radiant female vocals beaming through from above. It’s THAT riff, though. THAT riff.
Together, these two glorious slices of crystallized woe more than make up for the slightly less stellar areas of Up at Lagrange – including, much to my disappointment, the title track, which in spite of its tousled glow, doesn’t quite resonate with the same distinctive force. Oh, but the closer cinches everything fabulously – like all good Cure finales, the intro builds into nearly the halfway mark, so that when the vocals finally descend, the crimson swell breaks into a commanding waterfall.
Now, yes – like the JAMC, the Hobbes embrace feedback, but it’s tinny feedback that trails off the songs like loose strings from a t-shirt. Mind, given the melancholic nature of the Fanclub, pushing the noise to the red would bully out the wondrous shades of blue – but those spare feedback intros do cast this illusion of noise. And deception doesn’t suit such aching beauty, if you ask me. Also, in spite of the soaring highs, the Hobbes’ pallet is quite limited, which does sadden me. (Compare to the Church or the aforementioned House of Love to hear what alien hues can be woven into dreamers’ visions.)
However, despite its shortcomings, Up At Lagrange still casts a potent spell. Don’t resist it – lean back and dream the day away.
Up At Lagrange is released on August 19th.