The Lick on the Tip of an Envelope Yet to be Sent
(Rise Above, 2005)
I prayed for this band, this album, to be good. A curious album title, photographs of the members dressed in medieval attire whilst standing within a circle of fire or submerged in a reedy pond, and the promise of the sounds of cittern, saz, harmonium, Moog, crumhorn and the unidentified rausch pfiffer, made me want to love this band immediately.
But, having to put these exciting delicacies firmly at the back of my mind, it would be the music that mattered. The album opens with the track "Miri It Is," in all its enchanting olde-language glory. After the hubbub of the spoken introduction, the band kick into a good folk-rock tutti, not unlike the opening of Fairport Convention's infamous album Liege & Lief with "Come All Ye."
The next track, however, is perhaps more in a league of its own. Comparison can only find the more innovative of minstrels in a very English stately home, possibly in the holiday humour of bank holiday, or something. Aside from conceivably the best lyric ever -- "As the mushroom told its tale she screamed My God!" -- "My Body is Made of Sunlight" also contains the most prolific role outside the school classroom the recorder has had in years. It is guaranteed to have the listener hopping from foot to foot like an idiot, most likely with arms outstretched, declaring that yes, our bodies are indeed made of sunlight.
"The Scarecrow" features vocals so strained and introverted, like a paranoid Neil Young, that the listener is left unsure whether the band are having a laugh and taking the piss, or taking themselves seriously, having slaved over the tracks for months. I suspect it's a confused mixture of both, but it doesn't really matter, given the humorous narrative with a moral and the divine vocal embellishments from French singer-songwriter Lo Polidoro.
The two entirely instrumental tracks on the album, "Orpheus" and "The Aphid," bring the listener back down to the 21st century, with enough electronica and samples to impress Ozric Tentacles and Peatbog Faeries. Here, the band focuses on ambience-building and having a good dance simultaneously.
Although the closing track, "Power to the Pixies," cannot help but remind me of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge," both in title and in sound, it is still wonderful. The frantic dance that breaks out after the enlightening mantra that is "Power to the Pixies!" would make a fantastic end to a live show, as well as the album.
Talking of live shows, it would be interesting to see whether medieval dress is obligatory for all ticket holders. I would hope it is.
by Sophie Parkes