BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Prolific London trio the Wave Pictures have spent over a decade under the Stateside radar for all but the most dedicated Anglophiles and guitar nerds. But a six-week U.S. tour last year with Allo Darlin’ not only raised the band’s profile, but inspired a manic songwriting streak on the part of leader David Tattersall that produced enough songs for a double album.
In a metaphorical take on the diversity across the American landscape, City Forgiveness explores the different shades of guitar rock and pop that can be produced by three guys, few pedals and plainspoken singing. “Before This Day,” “The Inattentive Reader” and “Red Cloud Road (Part 2)” incorporate mbaqanga melody lines in a similar fashion to Vampire Weekend, minus the prep school arrogance. “The Ropes” and “Chestnut” put a Wavy spin on burly blues rock, while the piano-enhanced “Atlanta” goes from bluesy strut to soaring pop chorus. “Golden Syrup,” “Shell” and “Narrow Lane” put forth pieces of jangling folk rock, the latter two augmented by some free jazz sax squall. The brooding ballad “The Yellow Rose,” the lovely ambler “Like Smoke” and the moderate rocker “A Crack in the Plans” let Tattersall cut loose, reclaiming guitar heroism for indie pop. “All My Friends” (chorus hook “All of my friends are gonna be strangers” courtesy Larry McMurtry by way of Merle Haggard), “Lisbon” and “Better to Have Loved” essay a familiar variant of British guitar pop.
None of the style-hopping sounds forced, mind you – Tattersall is just exploring his options, trusting in his talent and distinctive sound to generate continuity. Overflowing with strong writing and excellent playing, City Forgiveness earns every minute of its two-CD sprawl.
DOWNLOAD: “Red Cloud Road (Part 2),” “Shell,” “All My Friends”