The Quietus' Aug Stone - 'Blood & Brambles' review

Posted April 04 2014

This is my pop album of the year thus far. Mikey Georgeson, aka David Devant & His Spirit Wife's The Vessel aka Mr. Solo, is back with a new outfit, The Civilised Scene. They kicked things off in 2012 with the excellent 'Moth In Flame' / 'Bringing Rocks Back From The Moon' EP (a radio version of the former seeming to leave Marc Riley speechless at its conclusion), and Blood & Brambles has been preceded this year by the gorgeous 12" of 'Candy Floss'.

The album kicks off with the Western-tinged 'Curtains Of Zagra'. The cinematic settings here and throughout the record are enticing and engaging environs for the twisting, detailed, multi-angled views of Mikey's words – at times peculiar, always interesting. In 'Zagra' he's "resurrected as a statue cast in human flesh, I'll meet you in the shadows where the light and darkness mesh".

The production, courtesy of Dave M Allen (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Human League) is panoramic and lush. Blood & Brambles sounds big, and rightfully so. Simon Breed's guitar work rips around the solid propulsion of the rhythm section, with sax and French horn lines adding to both melodic structure and pulse.

'Sometimes', once a lovely-as-it-was piano ballad, is now taken even further into the realms of pop classic. With the main figure now played on guitar, Georgeson revels in oft-overlooked moments of grace amidst seemingly encroaching chaos. A truly uplifting new end section is heralded by the horns and blasts off into beauty. Next up is the killer 'Blackberries', the intensity of which has been rarely heard in pop for quite some time. Nothing short of a full on battle cry, this three chord assault rails against the state of The State – "smells of decaying vegetation seems emblematic of the nation" – with passion and charm.

Things settle down in pace for a while, with the dark gospel chords of 'Turn For The Worse' (as in "let's take a turn for...") Breed's guitar, as elsewhere when called for, provides gentler atmospherics. 'My Heroine' (the updated 'One More Dose') is a great, catchy-as-hell rock & roll song, the horns driving it along. Which brings us to 'I See What You Did There', another lofty highlight. Echoes of 70s rock have been scattered about the album, albeit filtered through Mikey's kaleidoscopic art pop lens, and they're certainly here in the intro.

Building and building over seven minutes, 'I See' evokes huge expanses of wonder and possibility, with Breed letting loose guitar bursts like fireworks across the night sky. 'You're Telling Me' strolls resignedly home, a pleasing post-revelation mix of melancholy and comfort.