In love with London

As I received the promotional copy of Morton Valence's 'Me and Home James' and opened it up with iTunes, under the genre section of the programme, this album listed as 'unclassifiable'. Whether this is the inadequacy of Apple or a fantastic coincidence is open for debate but one thing is for sure, it is certainly an apt and accurate observation of the London quintet's sophomore effort. "Me and Home James" is a rarity in modern music, it is a concept album that more often than not sticks to its guns and focuses intensely on its subject matter. The concept in question is the dirt, grime and character of England's capital, inhabited by all of those famous stereotypes; the cockney, the businessman, the religious study. The explorations of character on this album are always unflinchingly honest and true to life, an unbiased window-based view of society.

Album opener 'The Death of A Cockney Amorist' sounds like it's coming from an old-timey radio and has a distinct country/Americana feel with meandering guitars and soulful harmonies that romanticise the streets of London, gifting them a classic and haunting feel as the twitter of birds signal the dawn of yet another day in the Big Smoke. The pulsating and wonderful 'Man On The Corner' follows, with its minimal guitars and slow, thumping drums sounds a lot like The Velvets circa The 'banana' album, indeed as the song progresses, The VU's 'Heroin' is recalled as the instruments explode until life after gently plodding along. This track is what Lou Reed would have written had he been inspired by the shabby chic of London instead of New York. I can hear you thinking already, enough with the Velvets comparisons but Morton Valence are full of them, mixing full-blown devastating tracks with the mellowest and sweetest country love poetry. 'These Were The Things I Was Thinking...' and 'I'm Gonna Stand by You' are paeans to live and love that few bands can muster and are melodically sweet and lyrically tear-inducing.

Apart from thrilling folk, rock n roll and sweet ballads, the band are also capable of dabbling into electronica as evidenced in 'Sailors', fusing the old and traditional with the new and technological appears to be the band's ideology. Morton Valence appear to be one of those artists like The Clash or more recently, Jamie T that do not see genres are something to be restrained by but something to experiment and mess about with. The sailors in question are the band themselves, on this hectic voyage of self-discovery, sailing into the waters of challenge and excitement.

Morton Valence are a band with a massive arsenal of ideas and words and are undoubtedly one of the brightest bands in the country at the moment. Any band with the lyric 'If you were smokable, you'd be Super King', that can find beauty and whimsy in the most inane of objects is a winner for me. On every song, the voices of Robert Jessett and Anna Gilpin mix words of whimsy, romance and clever observation to bring the album to life, always ably supported by their band, the chemistry between the two is electric and makes for essential listening. A modern day Velvet Underground minus the destructive nature and a band that can be an important feature of the British rock canon in the future. Unclassifiable? Bold, brave and bloody brilliant is what it is!