by Chris Hatch
The latest release from Bingo Records comes in the shape of John Myrtle’s brilliant new EP – Here’s Johh Myrtle – a collection of old songs and new that form the perfect window into the songwriter’s world, and shuns current trends – gently shimmering away in its own paisley-clad bubble.
Opening track, Foggy, is a song made of light and shade. As Myrtle laments the malaise a lost love has left him in, bright, chorus-tinged guitars lift the song out of the doldrums and result in a sound that’s wistful and optimistic rather than self-pitying. There are elements of early 1970s bands like Love and The Kinks in the instrumentation, while Myrtle’s lyrical phrasing, and subtle vocal idiosyncrasies gently lull the song towards classic folk territory.
The creeping paranoia in the lyrics of There Must Be Something More To You And Him is juxtaposed against a floaty, carefree backdrop. Rich, finger-picked acoustic guitars play against a lazily skittish percussion line. Those elements of light and shade are there again – ‘in passing conversation you have said his name, and with those eyes you check to see if my expression remains the same,’ Myrtle dolefully sings over an ear-catching, jangly guitar refrain.
Cyril The Slug (taken from last year’s Two Minute Bugs sampler) comes and goes in a playfully trippy couple of minutes. Myrtle’s cartoony, processed vocals take on the role of the eponymous shed-squatting mollusc, as he surreally describes his binge through the vegetable patch. It skates dangerously close to the novelty song territory, but the bouncy, squelchy guitar line, Lady Madonna-esque drums, and instantly-memorable melody makes it something that a lot of music isn’t these days – fun. If all pop music was like this we’d be in a far better place.
The record is rounded off with a couple of songs that head back towards the classic songwriter mould. The World Will Keep Spinning Round is an upbeat, joyous song -the lyric walks a tightrope between defiance and despair. On Beware Of Love you can almost visualise the French New Wave film that it could soundtrack – arpeggiated acoustic guitar lines unfurl and wrap themselves around breathy backing vocals as Myrtle’s hushed tones spell out a cautionary tale. ‘Beware of love, don’t let it take you in’, warns Myrtle, over a beguiling, enticing melody.
Warm acoustic guitars, simple, organic production, and a voice that’s distinctive yet strangely familiar, makes it feel like this is a record plucked from the back catalogue of some brilliant, undiscovered, late-1960s artist – pulling you into a world where time stood still at some point in the last half-century.. This isn’t a gaudy nostalgia record though; it’s more a collage of influences rather than a crayon-drawn caricature. Its only downfall is that it zips by far too quickly, as Here’s John Myrtle is rich, unique, and so enjoyable to get lost in.
Secret Meeting score: 87