Oliver Shaw Music, Of Darker Plains
This is gritty and realist, yet unfailingly dark and dreamy songwriting with a serrated edge; ten tracks of hard London living, life on the fringes, teetering on the edge of society with one foot in the void and the other tapped into a creative pulse. And it comes from a Camden rat with Keef eyeliner and a foppish hat given to him by his mum. Much heavier in tone than his last one, The Last Of The English Cowboys, Plains squares up with a deteriorating UK from a trenches perspective, covering poverty and perceived impotence (“Be A Man”), doomed love triangles (“Of Darker Plains”), and domestic strife (“Just Another storm In Our House”). Traces of Syd Barrett eccentricity are highly evident throughout, although Shaw throws enough wrenches into the machinery to fuck up any nostalgia tags. There’s the snarling punk of “Burmese Taxi Taxidermy”, the stark English folk of “The Nothing Song”, and the almost pop tones on “Pleasant Trees-Redone”. With a caterwauling voice and sharp pen, Shaw doesn’t just observe the modern fallout on these tracks; he inserts himself directly into the mire in order to salvage dark jewels from the grim wreckage.