Memphis – Here Comes a City

January 01, 1970

(Arts & Crafts)


Five years and as many different cities in the making, Here Comes a City — by the bi-national
duo of Canadian Torquil Campbell and American Chris Dumont – takes the
promising elements of their sophomore release, 2006’s A Little Place In the Wilderness, and polishes them to a shimmering
full-album sheen. Given the two records’ titles, you could call the latter an
urban upgrade: the hooks are bigger, the textures glossier, the melodies
sharper, and the narratives darker and more pointed.


That mood pulls into the station straightaway with the subway-field
recording in the opening instrumental track, whose title fittingly nods to the
Go-Betweens — though you can also think of Memphis as cousin to London’s the
Clientele, just with more pop wallop and a dash of the Smiths thrown in.
The station hubbub is swathed in swooning strings and guitar lines that sparkle
like neon over basslines that echo the big city pulse, romantic accents that
reverberate throughout these luminous 10 tracks.


Much of the record’s charm and depth emerges from the contrasts
between its shimmering sound and dystopian topics: The bridge-jumper suicide at
the heart of the shuffling, glissando-rich “I Am the Photographer”; the
emotionally abused narrator of “Wait!” declaring with bittersweet glee “I don’t
love you anymore” over a sepia melody and vibes-shaded horn sections; and the
post-party, “blue hour” regrets listed over thumping bass and flickering
guitars in the choruses soaring through “I Want the Lights On After Dark.”


The latter follows another brilliant pop melody, the Smiths-like
“Apocalypse Love Song.” Former Stars’ singer Campbell does a yeoman Morrissey
as Johnny Marr guitars weave, vine-like, around the prominent bassline. There’s
a note of salvation here as the “sun shines on unemployment lines” and
“trenches turn to flowerbeds,” but only because Campbell chooses to find solace in the
end-times through music: “I could be wrong, it’s a just a song/It’s just a way
of being here/of doing something with the fear.”


The LP would be plenty strong enough if Here Comes a City were limited to these glistening pop gems. But
“Five Loops” offers pop-contrast with swirling synths, processed vocals
and those titular loops building a beat-rich track. Two longer cuts, the
7-minute “Reservoir” (which adds slide guitar and strings to the mix) and
nearly-as-long “Way Past Caring” (note the rousing horn-fueled crescendo) use
shifting textures and slow-build tempos for atmospheric foils to the
band’s pop. The record’s weakest track, “M + E = Me,” is conveniently the last
one, and suffers primarily in contrast with the other nine. Best listened to
front-to-back, Here Comes a City is a
pop song aficionado’s dream destination.


DOWNLOAD: “I Want the
Lights On After Dark,” “Reservoir,” “Apocalypse Love Song” JOHN SCHACHT

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