Just to clear up any confusion: Billy Vincent [Twitter/Facebook] is not a man; it is a band. The band name utilises the first and last name of the two members of the band who handle lead vocals and guitars: Billy Barratt and David Vincent. The quintet – completed by Joseph Kinsey (Bass, Harmonica, Vocals), Matt Woodward (Fiddle, Vocals) and Jack Blenkinsop (Drums, Vocals) – are based in London, and their debut album She, as the title might suggest, is a rumination on romance.
The instrumental line-up suggests something folk-tinged, too,but the band’s sound comes closer to – whisper it – country music more than anything else. Granted, before the band can become too easily pigeonholed, they make the point that their music is not the sort of miserablist, crying-into-a-pint stuff that the genre has become infamous for; it’s much more vibrant than that, even if, lyrically speaking, it’s not the happiest of albums. Opener Dead Man’s Shoes immediately sets out the album’s stall with the arresting line, ‘She said our love’s like a paper cut; she didn’t know it was there till it hurt so much.’ The immediacy of the song, and the sharpness of the fiddle line that’s most prominent in it, mark it out as an impressive album opener: layered and nuanced, with surprising emotional heft.
As Mystery Jets proved with their (excellent) recent album Radlands, English bands doing Americana or any of those related genres need to know what they’re doing, or it comes across as horribly contrived. None of the 12 songs on the album lack conviction, however, and at times they’re much more powerful than one would expect. The Wayward Fall In Line hangs around less than two minutes, but contains perhaps the best hook on the album; matched to a set of cutting lyrics, it’s the sort of song that one will wish went on longer.
There are plenty of other things to digest on the album, however: it’s quite varied, both in lyrical (though the ins and outs of love are, as previously stated, never far from the band’s minds) and musical focus. After throwing out a few energetic songs towards the start, it settles into a more mid-tempo groove, but it is precisely where it starts doing so that the album hits its stride. The four-song run from Feathers through to Lisson Grove is the most impressive on the album, and by the time its finale is reached, and the magnificent, not to mention extremely intense Ballad of Billy Vincent (again, you can see where the band’s moniker could be confusing) closes proceedings, there is a distinct impression that the album is much better than the sum of its parts. It works extremely well as one interrupted listen from start to finish, as all great albums should. No doubt, people will have preconceptions going into their first listen, but the best advice I could offer you is to leave them at the door, because She is definitely not what you expect.
She is out now via Something Nothing