MISERABLE RICH – Overcome (Rags To Riches Records)

OvercomeJohn Lennon sang about “sitting in an English garden”, and the new Miserable Rich album, Overcome, waters those Brighton flowers with folk-pop acoustic endlessly enjoyable melodies. The band has been labelled “chamber pop” – which should not be confused with the music of parallel universes known as “indie pop”, “Baroque pop”, “dream pop”, and (of course!) “Ambient pop”. It’s all quite confusing.

Well, as William Blake once asked, “Enough! Or too much”. I go with the latter, and simply say the Miserable Rich make clever rock music (with a nice acoustic folk edge) that will appeal to fans of indie greats like Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, and (my beloved!) Field Music.

The first two songs pump with crisp pop, edgy instrumentation, the smooth voice of James de Malplaquet, and a few finger snaps. ‘The Ballad Of Young Finn’ is a joyous tune that wavers like the silhouette of a wind-blown candle wick. Then, the pulse quickens with the piano-graced ‘Crows’, that gets weirdly philosophical about the demise the human race, and “transports listeners to a decaying world, where these savvy and resourceful birds emerge as unexpected protagonists, navigating the chaos with calm and skill”.

Sure, a clever lyric is always great because, as Led Zep guy Robert Plant once sang, “And it makes me wonder”.

But (and it’s just a personal thought because this album is ripe with interesting lyrical contemplation!), while it is always enjoyable to consider relinquishing control over global matters to, in this case, the odd murder of crows, it is quite necessary to mention (as a point of personal privilege) my childhood memory of those nasty birds ripping the sparrow’s nest tucked within my parents’ clothes poles into uninhabitable shreds. And, to the best of my knowledge, those crows never even bothered to send the obligatory “Peace on Earth” Christmas card – which we humans are apt to do every once in a while. Of course, and it’s just another privileged personal thought, our canine friends certainly possess enough faithful love to solve a few of the world’s problems, but as (the great) Michael Chapman once sang, “Dogs got more sense than to sleep in the rain, but they can’t play rock ‘n’ roll”.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, when confronted with the pros and cons of these evolutionary speculations, simply said, “I just really enjoy a song lyric that goes beyond The Beatles’ song ‘Love Me Doand gives The Kinks’You Really Got Me’ a run for its money”.

That all said, ‘Crows’ just skips a really clever folk stone over the often-repetitive song written waves.

And then, ‘Everything Bright And New’ ups the folk street cred of the album. This is a lovely song with eternal patience and melodic folk roots that sparkles with vinyl grooved age.

In really nice juxtaposition, ‘FHS’ continues with the catchy pulse and a swirling violin but erupts with horns that touch an up-tempo New Orleans jazzy vibe.

But (oh my!) ‘Glue’ gets acoustic raw, with solemn and dramatic strings. The song is about the loss of a child and the necessity of staying together. Sometimes, music can sing with the pathos of great human sorrow. That’s when it becomes art, with a passionate punch.

The sun sets on even more gorgeous songs. ‘If Only’ has a melody that competes with the beautiful lyrics that sing, “If we could only go back there and find another way”. The tune oozes with just barely unforgiven memories. And ‘Penny For’ evokes the sublime (sort of) cosmic folk vibe of Magna Carta, circa Lord Of The Ages. Ditto for the piano and string touched ‘Probably Will’. Then, ‘Quietly’ sings to the stars and rumbles with vocals and violin into a nice acoustic cauldron. ‘Taken’ continues the clever “English garden” antiquated folk tune touch, with the glance back to The Amazing Blondel, circa their post John David Gladwin album Inspiration.

Now, we may, indeed, never know “Who put the bomp in the bomp shoo bomp shoo bomp”, but these Miserable Rich people sure put the “folk shoo folk bomp” back into the highly irresistible world of intelligent chamber pop music, as the final two songs ring with antiquated clarity. ‘We All Know’ is an eerie piano dance with ghostly voices that float from some “unquiet grave”. And the brief acoustic ‘Poem For Suzanne’ brushes into the final grooves that thank the stars with the wisdom of any crescent moon’s melodic and always very gentle touch.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://themiserablerich.com/

‘Crows’ – official video:

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