There are bands that have been around for a while and you never really get into. There are bands that you love immediately. And then there are bands that seem to have been around for ages, but you’ve never really be bothered to give them a chance, because you’re too lazy. Help Stamp Out Loneliness fall into the latter category, and they have made a fool of me.
This, their debut album, is right up there with the upcoming Comet Gain one for me. When you get to your late thirties there aren’t many records that make you want to get up off your knees, stick some clothes on, and go out and find out what the city holds at night – but this one day. It’s a sultry little tease all right; sometimes innocent, charming, sexy, dangerous, lush and dark. But always, at is very heart, lies a perfect pop song.
When I was growing up I always wanted to live in Manchester, for the usual reasons, really, but HSOL make me want to get back up there immediately with songs like ‘Cottonopolis + Promise’, a loveletter to their adopted hometown. It sounds like Nico singing a Camera Obscura song, and it’s the best opening track I’ve heard on an album for years.
If you’ve seen HSOL then you’ll know that Dianne Lucille is a quite brilliantly terrifying front for the band. They might want twinkle and tinkle their pop hearts out behind her, but Lucille puts HSOL just the right side of dangerous. She looks like she’d cover you in glitter then kick your head in. Then sing something glorious like ‘Record Shop’ to you. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing.
And that sort of thing runs through this record like a gold thread. ‘The Ghost With the Hammer in His Hand’ starts off with a slash of summery synths, but Lucille’s plaintive vocal gives a darker edge that turns what would already be a pleasant song into something approaching pop violence. It’s thrilling, really.
HSOL save the best ‘til last, though. ‘Split Infinitives’ is seven minutes of bliss, starting with dinky keyboard riffs until a big bastard guitar comes in to lift you off your feet. From then on it’s like you’re flying with this amazing pop song pouring into your ears. And this time Lucile’s vocals make an impassioned stab at optimism. It’s the perfect way to end a perfect album, really.
If you’re lucky, HSOL will be playing you very soon. In the meantime you can catch them at The Chameleon in Nottingham on 7th May, and at the Oddbox weekender at the Victoria, Dalston in London on 8th May. Don’t miss out, please.