Graceless

Having spent since the mid-noughties crafting their sound and honing their craft under various guises, SULK have FINALLY released debut album ‘Graceless‘, after a string of well-received singles and some greatly-attended gigs, including a recent support slot with fellow H&H favourites, Exit Calm (their singers share a home, how romantic).

Packing punches that could knock even Muhammad Ali into next week (or into 1996, if you’re one of those “There’s nothing original here!” naysayers), it’s not originality that’s the point here, but more the celebration of how a bunch of scrawny young chaps can craft an album that, yes, could have been made in the ’90s, but is also so refreshingly ‘now’ that I want to seal it in a time capsule and leave it to my grandchildren, just to remind them just how good music in 2013 was. I mean, haven’t you heard?! Guitars are back in! Shoegaze is cool again! It’s alright to wear baggy jumpers once more! Britpop wasn’t a bad dream from 5 years ago, it was a beautiful, euphoric period nearly 20 years back! SULK have spent so long slogging away at what they do better than most, and been called ‘plagarists’, ‘unimaginitive’, and at best, ‘retro’, that it’s hideously ironic that so many bands are now doing the same thing, and being praised for it.

Regardless, misgivings aside, I’ll now tell you why this band, and indeed, this record, deserve your utmost attention. If you’ve ever heard a song and been almost knocked for six by the sheer perfect combination of its melody and chord progressions, juxtaposed on some pretty spot-on production and instrumentation…well, ‘Graceless‘ has 10 of those songs. Opening with ‘Sleeping Beauty‘, the drums and bass battle beautifully for attention, casting a doubtful eye upon the rest of the record, in case it doesn’t match up to standard. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Flowers‘ is catchy as fuck, whilst fellow old-song ‘Marian Shrine‘ weaves intrinsic guitar lines through psychedelic wonderwalls of sound (yes, really), creating a collateral headfuck of noise and melody and euphoria and UTTER BRILLIANCE that you’ll be begging to press repeat, time and time again. Single ‘Back In Bloom‘ demands the most emotional of singalongs, with its oohs and ahhs careering around your brain like a midnight express train to ecstasy and exultation. There’s as many comparisons to 3 generations of psych-rock in My Bloody Valentine, The Horrors, and Toy, as there are in 3 generations of Britpop in The Stone Roses, Oasis, and…Gay Dad (hey, I liked them).

Indeed, if you asked me to describe this album in one word, I’d have to go for ‘BIG’. Not ‘epic’, that seems reserved as a lad-ism for ‘quite alright, really’, and ‘mega’ seems too Madchester (ironically). No, ‘big’ does the job nicely. Whether it’s ‘Down‘ and its bellowing chorus, as Jon Sutcliffe’s vocals soar in a way that Ian Brown wishes his could, or ‘The Big Blue”s descending riff that’ll throw you into a vortex of trip-induced melancholy and indifference, ‘big’ seems the right word for it. As ‘Down‘ puts it clearly; It’s a special place for your mind“.

As things wrap up with the ‘Sproston Green‘-like ‘End Time‘, all that’s left to say is that ‘Graceless‘, as an album, a living body of art, and even a concept, is just beautiful. Utterly beautiful by nature, there’s everything you’d want from a band like this, and then some. Where SULK’s peers (think Peace, Swim Deep, Towns) are so worshipping of the ’90s that whenever the ’00s revival starts, they’ll be cast aside without a second thought, SULK themselves have an utterly timeless quality that seems to be above fads, trends and scenes, and simply is what it bloody well is.

10/10

About The Author

Mark Riley

Always pick the Fire starter-Pokemon.