Meursault - Something for the Weakened
It is a measure of the strength of the material on this third album from Meursault that I recognise a lot of the songs from only hearing them once at a gig last October.
Still based in Edinburgh, and often lazily compared to Scottish musicians such as King Creosote and Withered Hand, Meursault tend to have a more intense and bleak outlook than some of their contemporaries. It is no coincidence that they are named after the emotionally detached and absurd main character in Albert Camus's existential novel The Stranger.
For many people, appreciation of Meursault depends on how you take the vocals of main songwriter Neil Pennycook. For some it is an emotional howl, for others it is a loud bellow. This time around, on Something for the Weakened, his voice seems to blend in better with the overall sound of the band and at times is softer and more fragile.
While the abrasiveness of the vocals has been tempered, the band have also had a change of direction, which is obvious from the opening track 'Thumb' with its simple repetitive melody. All the electronic elements from their first two albums have been jettisoned in favour of a focused sound which is by turns minimal and acoustic, yet is also embellished by the presence of a string section and piano.
I hesitate to use the word anthemic but it suits 'Flittin', which manages to sound both poppy in a Phil Spector way whilst still hinting at the epic ambition of someone like the Arcade Fire.
The stunning 'Lament for a Teenage Millionaire' is a familiar song, but here it has been totally reversioned from its first appearance as an unhinged piece of manic electronica on their first album. This time around banjo and strings dominate and give the story within the song a better chance to be heard.
'Setting', which some of you who have seen the band live may know as the "ha-fucking-ha" song, is another highlight, introducing the first loud guitars and ramping up the intensity.
'Hole' takes the pace down and is bleak but beautiful. Seemingly referring to someone's deceptive tales, I love the way after the refrain of "there is a hole in that," Neil deadpans,"“and it's a mile fuckin' wide." This might be the loveliest song Meursault have written but it has a close rival in 'Mamie' which is an even more minimal piano piece with Neil singing softly, accompanied by very subtle strings.
The brief instrumental 'Lighting Bolt' acts as a brief prequel to the epic 'Dull Spark', and the latter track steals the show, picking up the pace again, and building on the epic sweep of the earlier 'Flittin'. The way Pennycook spits out the line "it's all fine" is a real highlight.
I'm not so sure about 'Dearly Distracted', which at seven and a half minutes is the longest piece here. It's almost a rock ballad which builds on a long intro and features a remarkably big guitar solo at the end. Although it still fits this album, it is the most dramatically different from their earlier work. The final track is an untitled song and is quite a pretty tune to end on.
I can already imagine people saying that Meursault have "gone mainstream" with this release, although these songs have a heart and soul that will stay with you for ages. It's a warmer album, but I think that adds something to its appeal, and I think it will gain them quite a few new fans.
Purchase and listen
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