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THE WILD SWANS English Electric Lightning Occultation (2009)

Wild Swans

Two new recordings by Liverpool legends The Wild Swans is an unexpected but most welcome surprise. Original members Paul Simpson and Ged Quinn are present, alongside Ricky Maymi (Brian Jonestown Massacre), Mike Mooney (Julian Cope / Spiritualized) and Steve Beswick.

The original core trio consisted of ex-Teardrop Explodes members Simpson and Kelly alongside Jerry Kelly (Simpson later joined Ian Broudie in Care, while Quinn and Kelly later formed the Lotus Eaters). Their staggering 1982 debut single 'The Revolutionary Spirit' came out on Bill Drummond's Zoo label and he later described it as "by far the best single we put out". Despite the excitement around the band (fuelled by two BBC radio sessions) they split later that year.

One of the radio sessions was selected by John Peel as one of the first batch of Strange Fruit label EP's and this led to the band reforming and signing to Sire. "Bringing Home The Ashes" was released to critical acclaim but the follow-up, the psychedelic "Space Flower", only came out in the USA at the time. Paul Simpson became so disillusioned with the music business that he didn't resurface until the instrumental Skyray project in 1996.

Fortunately he has now found his voice again and the epic 'English Electric Lightning' is a wondrous and rousing return, with Paul now on a mission to "record the album I first heard in my head so many years ago and which has thus far eluded me". He describes the track as "an evocation of my 60s / 70s childhood when English Electric Lightning fighter planes and Vulcan bombers patrolled Britain's airspace. The verse is set in the adult amnesiac's wee small hours of the morning where negativity and fear for the future reign; the chorus is a (hopefully) rousing contrast-and-compare of the best and worst of Britain".

Produced by Henry Priestman and the band, it's an instant Wild Swans classic with killer chorus and a contemporary feel, while at the same time sounding as if it could have slotted comfortably onto one of the band's Sire albums. Paul's voice is incredibly strong, especially considering the number of years since he last committed a vocal to a studio track. Having been starved of new material for so long, it's an added bonus that it clocks in at just under six minutes!

Another new track, 'The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years' (the title of the forthcoming album), is even longer and features Paul's hushed tones reading a passage from his as-yet unpublished memoirs. Set in the early days of the Wild Swans, and an homage to the late Echo & The Bunnymen drummer Pete De Freitas, hearing it makes me want to read the entire memoirs now!

The Occultation label will be releasing these two "hymns to the cosmos and electric songs of praise" as individually numbered 10" vinyl singles (900 copies only), with sleeve artwork by Ged Quinn who is now one of Britain's leading painters. It will initially only be available from www.occultation.co.uk (priced at 8) and a free copy of the digital download will be supplied if ordered direct from the label. To these ears, 'English Electric Lightning' is the finest track of 2009 so far!

*****

Review by Jim Henderson

Jim Henderson presents "Power Pop" on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Thursday 21:00, Sunday 14:00


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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