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Late Night Final
Richard Hawley
Setanta

Richard Hawley has spent good times jamming with Pulp and The Longpigs over the years. His contribution to Pulp is probably most notable on the "Live in Finsbury Park" video. Since The Longpigs have disbanded, Hawley has found a lot of free time on his hands.

His solo work has taken him far away from Pulp and a little bit closer to Twin Peaks. David Lynch is probably knocking on Hawley's door right now to ask him to do a soundtrack for his next film. Not only is the music both backwards and forward looking, but the album's art offers scenes of snack bars, townies milling about, and discount sales from hell. Hawley recasts himself as the man in black. Late Night Final is a record to love, or make love to. It's the best album I have heard in a while.

The first song "Something is..." sounds like a road song. It throws you into a private world of weariness and leaving home. There is a lot of openness and tenderness in Hawley's voice, an innocence and lightness. The music is the furthest thing away from the clever and contrived. The single "Baby, You're My Light" sounds like the Everly Brothers forming a supergroup with Roy Orbison. Hawley has in fact often been compared to the late Orbison by many, though his voice is distinctively his own. Love songs never seemed so plain and simple. Most of the songs are driven by voice and guitar. The lack of percussion is not missed. This is hardly party music. It is music to be listened to alone with the lights low.

Hawley is a great storyteller. He gives Sheffield, his hometown, a Lynchian treatment. He sings so many heartbreaking songs like "Love Of My Live" without irony and with true feeling. In no way are these tunes sentimental. It's just like capturing the true feelings of old records. Good songs are good songs. The sound of Top of The Pops this isn't, but at least this will connect you to your dreams. If the visual world is all there is, why live without dreams? When you get to the fourth song "The Nights Are Cold" you can start seeing this album as postcards in a book from some other age trapped in our present. I think of good friends of the past and distant memories that have passed by in the night.

Many British musicians are currently obsessed with Hank Williams and Old Country music. This influence is evident in much of Hawley's work, even with the guitar parts he plays on Pulp's "Glory Days." Towards the middle of this record you think that you can be comfortable with Hawley's interpretations of Retro-futurism, but when he offers the song "Can You Hear The Rain, Love?" he sends the listener over cliffs in an ecstasy of sound with crescendos of beauty. The track "Lonely Night" has roots in folk music and hymns. Equal time is given to loneliness and emptiness as to their counterparts, love and hope. It's a lovely battle.

On "No Way Home" Hawley dramatizes Sheffield and realizes that he doesn't fit in. He's looking at his past life in a glass bubble. The strangest things have become the most familiar. He promises that "he's never coming back." When you think that all is spent, Hawley reaches for a great blues moment with the song "Cry A Tear For The Man In The Moon." Another really sad song. Maybe he is saying that love is the only escape from this miserable life? There is a Christmas vibe on some of these songs. Or is it nursery rhymes? "Long Black Train" sounds like one of those songs sung as a child. So many musicians try to be original using production tricks and technology. Hawley shows us how to be interesting and tender with evocative songs. I would like to shake his hand.

-- Alexander Laurence


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[email protected] | April 2002 | Issue 25
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