Updated: Mar 1
Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙍𝙚𝙖𝙘𝙝 - 𝙂𝙚𝙛𝙖𝙝𝙧𝙜𝙚𝙞𝙨𝙩
Charles goes to church…
For someone so irreligious as I, God and his troves do make quite a number of appearances in my articles. Please do not forsake me oh Lord, for not conforming to your scriptures, but I give thanks for leading me to my own weekly scriptures. Or some such rubbish. Let’s face it, there is something very satisfying and wholesome about this way of speaking. A church remains largely unaltered by the modern world, with the exception of a card reader in place of a donation box. Even the almighty Lord himself is not impervious to contactless payment… On/Off topic, when at the Roman Baths in Bath the other week, I did chuckle at the sign which read “Do not throw coins into the water, please instead use the contactless donation device located to your right” - completely missing the point of throwing coins into fountains and the like. As if to say that places without such modern payment methods would have dedicated evening staff fishing the pennies out of the water, in order to pay for that leaky roof. It gives a different meaning to Sinatra singing about “three coins in the fountain”… I would imagine the same goes for the “Love Locks” on countless bridges and railings all over the world - they are simply donating padlocks to the nation. That must be the reason. Now if only they supplied the key as well, then we’d all be secure. God almighty, I forgot what we were talking about! Oh yes: God Almighty. Aside from the beauty and romance of it all, even non-believers will turn to it for another reason. Desperation. When almost all hope is lost, one cries for help.
A suffocated sinewy arm rises high to snatch a last gasp of all it can grasp: air. The need for a higher being is more vital than ever before. And in finding nothing, these bony fingers will not cease to claw at little more than what little hope is left. Being a small man, I completely empathise with being unable to reach something unreachable. I am an adult. I can drink alcohol. Yet in putting the Scotch whisky on the top shelf, it assumes that all adults are tall, and all younger beings are small. This is not the case. So when I am faced with a pang for that mature nectar, LIDL offers me no option but to reach and reach again. It is embarrassing and probably looks like a scene from a Norman Wisdom film (for the mature British readers) or a Danny DeVito film (for the immature readers from the rest of the world). I could of course ask for help from a nearby teenager, but that just wouldn’t seem right - on so many levels. So I keep reaching. The clink of the glass shows I’m close. My inner energy somehow forces me to grow that extra inch, and I’m there. Perhaps a golden glow from above that saw I needed help? I’m sure I heard someone saying “I believe in you. You can do it”. Perhaps it’s just the alcohol talking. Most probably some shrugging lanky teenager while guffawing like a moron in between puffs on his Watermelon Sugar vape stick. Anyway. Job done. Got my Scotch. But is it this easy to reach God? Probably not. You’ll most likely get the answerphone - “Please leave a message after the bell” - and the church bell tolls. So we pray, for we can take no more. The beauty of the church becomes our only salvation. Our final lasting plea, for everything to be fixed, sorted and absolved.
Religion these days seems (rather sadly, in my mind) to be a fashion. But the good news is, this fashion can on occasion bring greatness. Decades ago, gospel music went mainstream with artists such as Aretha Franklin and even Stevie Wonder. It was all “praise the lord and ye shall be healed - Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy” etc…. Whether this sounds like a Gangsta’s Paradise or just a Pastime Paradise, things were about to evolve further. In the last decade or two, it seems that artists have realised the darkness in religion. Not the occult or devilry, but there is perhaps something devilish about it. Darkness in music is undoubtedly cool. Not the band (Justin Hawkins’ The Darkness is decidedly uncool). I suppose this started in the world of rap. From the days of Coolio in the mid 90s to when Dr. Dre and Eminem ruled the land, to when Kanye West was hailed as a martyr rather than laughed at for being an idiot - (oh, how the mighty have fallen), there has always been a lure to the faithful darker days of rap. So how about in the pop world? When Florence and the Machine blew up in 2009, there was something BIG about it. There wasn’t anything inherently “religious” about their music. But as the years went by, their sound had a drink in a nearby cathedral. And so was born the new sound of religion. This coincided with the ultimate “church music” when Hozier released his 2013 smash hit, Take Me to Church. I believe this to be one of the greatest songs of the 2010s, and maybe even of this century. It broke through the stained glass and landed on the altar as a defining moment in pop history. It was such an unlikely hit for the time, in my eyes. But I was relieved to see that it captured the hearts of the pop fans as well as the rest of the world. Right now, one of the biggest songs of the moment is Sam Smith’s Unholy. It is basically an ethnic variant of Hozier’s masterpiece. Okay, it’s much more pop, and kind of completely different, but it shares something similar. Admittedly though, I absolutely love it. I never thought I’d say this, but I am seemingly a fan of “church music”! What is it about the angels and demons that captivates and carries the soul to another place? I should think it’s a similar thing to Harry Potter these days. The magic and wonder of it all. Slightly sad to lump in religion with Harry Potter, but there we are, deep within the modern world. Heave me out! I’m reaching, are you pulling? Hello? It’s me… Guess not then.
Let’s revisit the top shelf. No, not that one. This one. LIDL’s highest plinth. Luckily, they installed an escalator for this one, so I have no problems except for my vertigo. LIDL is German. You might assume that this week’s pick of the pops is German too, with a name like Gefahrgeist. But no, they come from the land of my whisky. Is everything Scottish on the damned top shelf?? Atop this classical plinth I see no haggis. I see no mince and tatties. I see no Beano and no Dandy. No tartan kilts, no bagpipes, no shortbread and no toffee. And now, no Nicola Sturgeon. In front of the Scotch lies the equally mature sound of this peculiarly named duo, with their brand new single, Reach. This coolest of sounds was created by Fiona Liddell (see what I did there - poor girl has probably been crippled by this joke her whole life, but I just couldn’t resist - apologies, Fiona) and Niall Rae (a drop of golden sun - had to even things out a bit - sorry, Niall). Their music however is anything but a joke. Fiona is the principal writer (alongside Jack Hinks) and singer, while Niall sees to almost everything else (mixing by Garry Boyle) - a perfect working relationship, if you ask me.
I see a fog-covered cesspit, bubbling occasionally. Its marbling is the darkest green and the deepest purple. It gloops. What’s left of the once swaying trees, lies still, cold and brittle. An old church nearby lies seemingly abandoned, save the flicker of a lonely candle. As we bat away the cobwebs at the entrance, we battle with the colony of squatting bats. This is no place for being saintly. A toothless double bassist appears on the porch with a certain look in his eye as he plucks the strings. A drummer by his side has a rather more vacant look in his eye as he taps the skins. In fact, he has no eyes at all, for he has no head! A thick, warm, heavy breeze urges us onwards and strongly suggests for us not to look back. And so I dare not. The ancient door creaks open as its base scrapes a curved groove deeper into the dry floorboards. The place seems larger inside than physically possible, for such a small old church. The nave converges to a point. A girl stands at the altar, silently looking down, from behind the only source of light - that candle. She is hooded, but her red hair peeks out at the collarbone. The rhythm section is directly behind me as the door abruptly slams shut. The sound is immersive. Ghostly faces appear all around the gallery, and we can see just enough to know that they are wearing cassocks. This is one eerie choir. I feel myself lifting and being brought towards the altar. The girl confidently yet slowly sweeps back her hood to reveal a face I will never forget. Her hair is like copper fire. As the beat rigorously hypnotises me, she opens her mouth and starts to sing. I am hers for the taking. With conviction, she sings solo as the choir drops to the floor, a heap of dusty velvet. She speaks sense. She sings things I know. I turn around to see if I can leave, but the music heightens, the choir returns and the room moves with me. When I turn, it turns. She winks and smiles on one side. Her tooth’s sparkling glint flies and dances around the hall like a firefly, eventually landing on the old dusty organ, quickly bringing it back to its former glory, pipe by pipe. It plays to the point where I start to feel comfortable in not knowing what is going to come next. The church comes to life with the Passion of the Christ. The thunderous drums snake through the aisles, rattling the empty pews with every beat, eventually finding their way through my ears and back to her. She flicks her dress with a mighty whip, which conjures more than a magic trick. A puff of smoke comes and goes, to reveal a string quartet in full view. It sways with her. She pauses. I ask her name. She mouths “Fee-own-ah”, before confidently easing back into her next vocal seduction with pride and power. I look back at the double bassist - how could I not have noticed the hatband with the glittering letters N-I-A-L-L…? So THIS is Gefahrgeist!
An utterly thrilling song from a pair of artists I have never reviewed before. Double thrills! I got chills, they’re multiplying! There are notes of Florence, tones of London Grammar, and lashings of originality. This is huge, grandiose, bombastic sound, but always cool as HELL! If THIS doesn’t put you in the mood to press play, then nothing will.
Feel free to throw coins in the comments below. Every LIDL helps.
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