The Sad Song Co: In Amber

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The name of the band gives it away a little, though “The Thoughtful Band Co” would be apt. The Sad Song Co is the alter ego of Nigel Powell, drummer with Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls.

While at school (the independent Abingdon School, said to be as good as Eton, where his current boss Turner went on a scholarship), Powell was in a band called Illiterate Hands, which featured future Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Andy Yorke, brother of Thom (now Dr Yorke, and an expert on Russia and politics, worth a follow on @AndrewYorke1).

Turner tours all the time and Powell probably has lots of time to think while on the road, the daily routine probably mostly down to muscle memory; this album reflects on old age, based on stories of people in an old people’s home.

Musically, it’s gloomy pop/rock, in its better moments approaching Elbow for atmosphere and heft. In other places, it’s not so grandiose.

Lyrically it’s thoughtful but varied. Opener The Touch Of Us seems to be optimistic, “It’s not too late for everything to change if you believe it,” that sort of thing.

A Moment Of Clarity is more downbeat, and suggesting of someone who doesn’t change, dozing their way to death: “Disturb my peace, shake me awake …/I tumble underneath my moment of clarity/Why couldn’t you let me be?/Cruel moment of clarity”.

Last Dance Of The Evening is another upbeat one, possibly an old lady remembering her youth: “Noisy party/Lonely table/I watch you approaching me”, the invitation to share that last dance leading to (judging by the expressive piano solo) a happy life then sadness.

If you want criticism, it’s an album that takes some effort — Powell has put thought into it, you’ve got to put some thought in to get anything back. At a superficial first play it’s a little grey and unremarkable. Find out what it’s about, listen to the lyrics and play it a dozen times and its depths start to emerge.

Available on download from the usual sources and in physical form (CD and vinyl) from thesadsongco.com We liked it so much we bought a copy (we only had a CD and slipcase and CD for this review), and you can’t give a better review than that.

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