Written by: Dave Cantrell
Among the pejoratives thrown at bands over the last forty years, ‘twee’ may have been most onerous. Aside from betraying a journalist’s weakness for playground bully-level snideness (a look that has taken on especially ugly contours the last four years), it reflects the quality a writer should hope to avoid with every syllable that flows from their hand: laziness. Nonetheless, the term became not only a common descriptor in the British press beginning in the second half of the 80’s but emerged as a de facto genre unto itself, hauling beneath its frilly umbrella bands as disparate as Belle and Sebastian, Trembling Blue Stars, Marine Girls, the Vaselines, Beat Happening and dozens more. As a subgenus one could reasonably point, we suppose, to an abiding melodicism, a penchant for lilting harmonies suspended above a bed of minor chords and something of an often literate, kitchen-sink lyrical sensibility that could conceivably be traced back to the social realism cinema of early 60’s Britain from the likes of Tony Richardson and others (and, yes, we too are wondering how any of those elements were anything but a positive). In truth, however, the wide spectrum of artists to whom that particular four-letter word was attached were in the main as diverse as those bunched beneath any other sub-genre heading over the course of rock music, an actually lively and vibrant variety that sifted over time into a more or less agreed-upon scale running from near-legendary (Teenage Fanclub, the Pastels) to the run-of-the-mill (that shall remain unnamed). Leaning with great retrospective relevance toward the former end of that scale we find both Heavenly and Talulah Gosh, two Oxford-based units that each counted among their essential number Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, who, as it turns out, have never turned their backs on their dual (dueling?) writing magic that, for the last six years, has found its expression under the Catenary Wires moniker.
First emerging in 2015 on the Elefant-released Red Red Skies, a treat of male/female vocals that nimbly blended both call-and-response and (especially) harmonies, the promise therein was confirmed by the grittier if still sublimely realized Til the Morning on the estimable Tapete Records where the themes of inevitable aging combined with a sturdiness of purpose despite that fact continued to deepen (check “Dream Town” to get full purchase on that point of view). And so we come to the soon-to-be-released The Birling Gap, due June 18th on Shelflife/SKEP WAX, whereon, it would seem, the beautifully consuming and very human fascination with this mortal arc we find ourselves on is in full bloom. Part of the renewed intensity is a result of the pair deciding, as many of us have, to engage with a broader political perspective, mainly due to the simple question ‘How can we not?’ Which isn’t to say that The Catenary Wires have suddenly swerved into the plainly polemic. Rather, their perspective has simply widened to a level that unavoidably integrates that kind of personal socio-political into the intimate. Gentle but gently unrelenting, “The Overview Effect” is prime Catenary Wires, lush with an implied hope that is nonetheless fully cognizant that the view one has of one’s continued place in this life is constrained by the very basic fact of our impending demise. It’s a type universality that can’t quite be encompassed by our sentimental human instincts except via the auspices of dreams and poetry, a phrase that succinctly encompasses the work of The Catenary Wires. That the title references the sensation astronauts would have when looking back upon the spinning blue sphere that is their world is hardly surprising. It’s an orbit that Fletcher and Pursey have been pursuing since day one of their creative careers. Here at SEM we’re pleased beyond words to present this most recent version of their shared artistic venture.