It is nearly twenty years since the last album from My Life Story.
A lot has happened since the year 2000.
Even more has changed.
Kevin Spacey won the best actor award at the 72nd Academy Awards.
I doubt there will be a comeback for Kevin this year.
The best selling single of the year was “Can We Fix It?” by Bob…the builder.
It seems unlikely that such a feat will be repeated this year.
Tony Blair was the Prime Minister.
Shall we move on?
Oh…I weighed eleven stone and had a full head of hair.
Everything has changed.
So little of it for the better.
Now, into a world of Brexit, Trump, BoJo the bozo and all manner of other unpleasantness comes Jake Shillingford and his relentlessly bright and breezy baroque pop which, often masks something deeper, more thoughtful, more romantic and more insightful than one catches on first listen.
The last time I spoke with Jake was in January 2017, shortly after the release of the first new My Life Story material in sixteen years, the single “24 Hour Deflowerer”. I asked him then whether or not we might yet have another My Life Story album…“I am always writing so who knows what may be in store next year.” he told me and now, two and a half years on the fruits of those labours are about to hit your ear drums.
Are you excited?
You should be.
“World Citizen” is a great album.
I’ll go further…
“World Citizen” is the best My Life Story album.
I know what you are thinking.
You are thinking about the nineties.
About how perfect “12 Reasons Why I Love Her” is.
About the time you heard “Motorcade” on that free “Maker Shaker” tape.
About the feather boas and the glitter and glitz of “Sparkle” and “The King of Kissingdom”.
I hear you.
I agree…those things are all impeccable, flawless.
We were younger then.
The world was better.
We had hope in our hearts and a glint in our eyes.
“How” you are asking “Just how could anything be better than that and then?”
Well before we get to the music we have been told that this is an album which features the following…a forty piece orchestra recorded in Budapest over Skype, lyrics written on Facebook with the help of fans, equipment used on early Goldfrapp recordings, a certain well known New Romantic performing on one track, 10 songs of love, loss and telescopes, the use of Freddie Mercury’s old microphone, drum and bass recorded in one take and the use of a stylophone for, possibly, only the second time in pop music history (the other one is Space Oddity in case you were wondering) and, probably, a whole lot more besides.
What about the music.
Let’s start with “Taking on the World” which is, quite simply, the only song I ever want to hear ever again. A relentless blast and bolt of upbeat joy and positivity. A hymn for hope. A hopeful hymn. A ray of sunshine in a world that seems utterly enveloped in dark hues. Their are strings and “whoah-whoahs” and “yeahs” and by the time it finishes you are lying breathless on the floor, convinced that maybe, just maybe, we can change the world…together. It sounds like the closing track to the best John Hughes movie that John Hughes never made. But then you listen again and something altogether more substantial begins to reveal itself…a dystopian vision, Extinction Rebellion, environmental collapse.
It’s the best song you’ve ever heard.
Oh shut up.
I can go a bit over the top when something is this good.
If you don’t like it go and read something on The Quietus or in The Guardian.
A blend of that theatrical pop, baroque pop and eighties electro pop make the album opener “#NOFILTER” sound like Human League and Morricone have popped by for a cuppa during recording and hung around to offer a bit of support. It begins with a whisper and ends with a roar…strings swirl and swoon, drums pound and blast, Jake sounds strong, impassioned and the thought of this being performed live has my heart beating faster than a thing that beats really fast.
The title track, “World Citizen”, is a call to arms for those who are a bit tired of division and those who seek to divide us. “I’m not afraid of the dark, just scared of what I see” is the key line here, bringing to mind the moment in “A Taste of Honey” when Jo says “I’m not afraid of the darkness outside, it’s the darkness inside houses I don’t like.” As ever Shillingford takes something that could seem hopeless and injects hope…the ties that bind us are more important than the lines that divide us.
The source of much of what has come to define English popular music is, of course, Anthony Newley, who was a massive influence on David Bowie who, you may remember, went on to create the template for anything good in British popular culture for…ever. Shillingford met Newley shortly before recording “Mornington Crescent” and that theatrical pop sense and sensibility infuses several moments here, most notably on “A Country With No Coastline” which has echoes of past My Life Story glories combined with a more maudlin heart. It is a thing of great beauty.
“The Sun The Rose” is another moment where you find yourself wondering why you have bothered giving any time to any other band…I mean, how many of them have ever written a line like this; “My love is like the rose, the more you cut it, the more it grows, my love is like the sun, you turn your head, but it still shines on…it leads the way”. That darling hearts is, arguably, the best line on the album. At the risk of being accused, again, of being (a bit) hyperbolic…it might be one of the best lines ever. It reads like a meeting between Burns and Neruda, more romance and romanticism than any one song should possess. It’s not fair to other songs.
All in “World Citizen” is made up of ten songs, each one the equal of the one before and the better of most of the other songs you will hear this year. Pop thrills, shirts with frills, romance and lust, joy and hope, life over death and so much more make this all the evidence you need to present your case for My Life Story being the best new old band in Britain today.
“World Citizen” is released on Exhilophone on September 6th. You can (and should) pre-order your copy from the official store here.
My Life Story are touring throughout November and December and full details of the where and when can be found here.