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Tuesday 14 November 2023

Lions, Horses, People, Hope, Love, Resistance

I was back at Todmorden's Golden Lion on Saturday night for the launch party for the new David Holmes album Blind On A Galloping Horse, the man himself DJing for four hours to what was once again a packed and enthusiastic pub. I've said it before and it never fails to strike me, the absolute wonder that is The Golden Lion. From the outside, a fairly ordinary looking pub, standing by a canal in a northern town nestled in the hills where Yorkshire meets Lancashire. On the inside, another world. Holmes arrives and begins slowly, some floaty sax easing us in, the red lights already bathing the pub in a warm glow and the mirrorball throwing sparkles round the room. Things heat up fairly quickly, the heartbeat thump working its way in. This thumper courtesy of Golden Bug and The Liminanas is played...

Variation sur 3 Bancs

... and is followed by David's own remix of Jo Sims' Bass (The Final Frontier), a record I've played on repeat this year. David then drops in the instantly recognisable riff from Sign 'O' The Times and Prince's Fairlight synth and lyrics about Aids, the space shuttle and Hurricane Annie filling the pub. 

Holmes pitches things more and more for dancing with tracks from Khidja, Roe Deers and Pete Shelley and then, a slight easing up with the appearance of Senor Coconut's Trans Europe Express (I should add here I'm indebted to Martin and his Shazam app- my memory would not have recalled much of this amount of detail). There are tracks by Soft Rocks, Decius, Rich Lane's edit of Sinead O'Connor, Patrick Cowley, there is She's A Rainbow (I'm not sure about this, it wasn't the World Of Twist cover but didn't sound exactly like The Stones either), and this slinky disco chugger with happy/ sad house piano chords from 2012 by Roberto Rodriguez...

Mustat Varjo

It went on and on, The Human League's The Things That Dreams Are Made Of provoking much joy, and there was much more music besides, a proper night out with a lovely, friendly crowd and everyone there to dance, culminating in the ten minute epic from this year, Radio Slave's reworking of Audion's Mouth To Mouth, intense, rumbling, ecstatic techno with an irresistible ascending synthline that buzzes like a jar of wasps. 

David and Raven Violet's album has been on repeat since arriving at my house on Friday. It's a proper album, a complete piece of work with lyrical concerns and themes that tie the fourteen songs together across four sides of vinyl and seventy five minutes. The four singles released from it so far have all been huge songs for me- Hope Is The Last Thing To Die and It's Over If We Run Out Of Love lit up 2021 and 2022 and Necessary Genius, a rollcall and tribute to those who have gone who inspire him from Weatherall to Samuel Beckett, from Angela Davis to Sinead O'Connor, has done the same to 2023. Recent single Stop Apologising too. The rest of the songs stand alongside those four from the long opener When People Are Occupied Resistance Is Justified, a song surely born in David's upbringing in Belfast and directly relevant to the world today. Scattered throughout are the voices of refugees, speaking in their own languages with gentle synths and FX behind them, the voices of the repressed and downtrodden given space next to David's words and Raven's voice. 

Emotionally Clear and Yeah x 3 show a gentler, poppier side to the album. On the former Raven sings, 'Do you believe in the absence of evidence/ Do you believe in unjust punishment? Do you believe in cognitive dissonance?, and then the chorus erupts into a girl group swell of bells and synths. On the latter chiming synths and the sound of heads clearing and clouds parting, optimism and the word 'yeah', one of the oldest sounds in pop music. 

There are several nods to Andrew Weatherall, David paying tribute to his friend and inspiration: the title of an instrumental called And You Will Know Me By The Smell Of Onions, lighter than air synths, piano and a pattering drum machine; a cover of Laugh Myself To Sleep with Timothy J. Fairplay's guitars adding some post- punk/ Mick Jones fire to Raven's voice and Weatherall's words (from Andrew's unreleased second solo album of the same name); and the repeated line in the song Too Muchroom, Andrew's comment about 'if you're not living on the edge you're taking up too much room'. 

The album flows through to side four and the final three songs, that show the breadth of what David's created with Blind On A Galloping Horse. Tyranny Of The Talentless calms the pace, a slo mo drum track and lyrics about 'the ashtray of history'. It's followed by Love In The Upside Down, a tripped out monster led by fuzz bass and splinters of guitar, a giddy, swirling psychedelia filled with a sense of momentum, of other worlds, of awakening and possibility. Quite a rush. 

That just leaves the title track to carry us home, the sound of the end of a journey and finding strength in song and community despite the horrors of the world outside. Over strings and padded bass Raven sings, 'They will push you out/ And pull you in/ Whatever happens now/ We mustn't mustn't let them win', and the track fades with another speaking voice, this time I think speaking in Gaelic- a song about personal resistance, completing the loop back to the start. 

Blind On A Galloping Horse a beautiful packaged album as well, as all proper albums should be, with photos by Belfast street photographer Bill Kirk and artwork and text by British artist Jimmy Turrell, and a print of Sinead and the lyrics to Necessary Genius. As an album it feels like a statement, a personal account, a record that David had to make. Sonically, musically, philosophically, politically and emotionally, it feels very much like the album we need at this point in 2023, a response to both the inner and outer worlds, a call to action but one that also says we can still find hope out there somewhere, if we look in the right places. 


blureu said...

I'm a newbie to David Holmes and enjoying the new LP a lot. Where should I go next? I know there is a lot to pick from. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'd go for the Holy Pictures, Bow Down To The Exit Sign and Let's Get Killed.

thewalker said...

Nothing much to add, except that was a gripping read. Golden Bug secured & fresh eyes, ah, fresh ears for the next listen of the album.