Hull’s LIFE have just released their third album North East Coastal Town and they describe it as their “love letter to the city”. It’s bursting with ideas and so much rambunctious post-punk power I imagine it took a team of horses and a thick rope at Chapel studio from keeping the meter needles out of the red. It was also recorded in five days on a vintage desk with the band playing in the round which has made it sound vibrant and immediate.
You often find people from cities like Hull, Manchester or Liverpool are fiercely (and rightly) loyal to their home turf, unlike the proverbial melting pot of London where the people you meet are rarely from there and though they might become loyal to it, it’s just not on a cellular level. LIFE’s members: singer Merrick (Mez) Sanders-Green, his brother Mick (guitarist), bassist Lydia Palmeira and drummer Stewart Baxter live and work there so their songs are marinated in the city.
‘Friends Without Names’ is a slow burn into a splashy crescendo that you can imagine as the final song on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury just as the sun is going down. ‘Big Moon Lake’ is as big and bold as a fairground waltzer, slightly nightmarish but truly exhilarating, and that same out of kilter feel is also on ‘Almost Home’, and ‘Poison’. ‘Incomplete’ has a nervy swagger and the lyrics are conversational poetry: “Concentrations waning. Conversations draining. Sick of my complaining. Yeah you know I am. Tired of all the chit chat. Living in a rucksack. Slipping off the bitmap. Into the abyss” and ‘Shipping Forecast’ is a glam rock war dance of bulldozing guitars and bass and drums locked together like sledgehammers making love.
There are also what the band call “the ambient tracks” such as ‘Duck Egg Blue’ which was recorded in the early hours and inhabit the crawl space between Roger Waters and Leonard Cohen. Full tilt anthem ‘Self-Portrait’ just avoids straying into distortion and has the feel of an electricity substation on wheels pushed down a hill with no brakes. ‘The Drug’ is the poppiest song on the album (complete with backing “Ooohs”) with ‘Our Love Is Growing’ and ‘All You Are’, which close the album with tenderness and beauty “Beautifully bold the cracks in your soul. The crease of your hold is everything now. Blissfully high, the latch in your eyes. Your skin by my side is everything”.
My first-listen initial impression that North East Coastal Town was on the sombre-side was completely wrong. It’s a kitchen-sink drama, knockabout comedy, love story and thriller all rolled into one. The more I listened the more I got the warmth and humour woven around the more serious messages; like a person who’s resting face is stern but when they break into a smile they are transformed. It only gets better with repeat listening and LIFE should be as proud of this album as they are of their home city.
Review by Paul F Cook