The Black Lamps are on an upward trajectory in their musical career. Yorkshire born, the quartet have been gigging around the UK since 2006. They remain stoically and stubbornly unambitious. An early reviewer once quipped ‘They could be massive, if only they gave a shit!’ This laid back manner is present throughout their eponymous debut album. With a penchant for atmospheric, anthemic instrumental tracks, intermittently interspersed with unobtrusive vocals, The Black Lamps sound like the love child of The Cure and The Stone Roses (perhaps with Morrissey as a step-father).
How the four members came into being in their current formation is very interesting. Although hailing from different backgrounds musically and creatively speaking, they do harbour a shared love of decidedly early nineties style alternative post-rock; along with some deftly subdued elements of jazz and punk. The members of The Black Lamps are not merely cogs in a musical machine, but rather four separate and distinct machines speaking a common language. It makes sense then, to examine each machine independently.
Lyndon Scarfe plays guitar and keyboards and describes his day job as doing ‘something vaguely tedious in IT’, (in that case he is to be commended for the bands beautifully accessible and informative website). Greg Firth, the bassist, moonlights as an engineer and singles out bands such as Sigur Ros and Mogwai as chief influences.
It seems the dreamy, shimmering soundscapes are his inspiration, particularly in songs like ‘Scissors, Paper, Stone’ (incidentally their new single). Finally, Dean Ormston on drums has had noted success as a graphic artist for DC Comics. His energetic percussive style, frequently interspersed with military snare is oddly suited to a more painterly and aesthetically grounded sound: a remarkable feat for a drummer.
Liam Stewart, guitarist and singer, runs a t-shirt company when he’s not playing music. He has also released two solo albums. Stewarts love of singer-songwriters is evident throughout the album. Even in sparsely worded songs, the melodic cadences and rhythmic syntax seem to be in keeping with lyrical timing, giving the impression that words are being spoken when they are not. The most apparent example of this is in ‘Awkward’. A highlight of the album, ‘Awkward’ features a guitar riff written almost twenty years ago. One other notable song on the album is ‘The Smoking Party’. This track builds beautifully and could easily be imagined on the soundtrack of an indie coming-of-age film.
The Black Lamps seem to primarily dwell on the instrumental side of things. Stewarts vocals, when heard, is highly reminiscent of a young Ian Brown. Although the songs have a tendency to get samey after a while, the overall sound and ambience of the album is so enjoyable that it’s easily forgiven. If there is such a thing as responsible hedonism or youthful maturity, the Black Lamps are precisely that. For all their outspoken lack of ambition or desire for commercial success, if they continue producing albums of such quality as this one, they might not have a choice.