LOUIS DE BERNIERES – Despatches (Khaki Angel Records KARCD02)

DespatchesLouis de Bernieres releases a double album called Despatches on November 12th. Though De Bernieres has – how should I put it? – a more famous trade, let’s focus on the music, particularly since I gather it’s taken some persuading for him to take the step of putting an album together.

Despite the title and the covering picture, which shows De Bernieres with angel’s wings and what looks like World War I army clothing, the album mostly covers songs of love (though war and angels is an appropriate image for the tales of love in some of the tracks).

Despatches consists of two CD’s, twenty tracks, mostly acoustic, mostly primitive playing and production/arrangement (acoustic guitar dominant, variously supported by violin, tambourine, clarinet, cor anglaise, cello, lute, drums, electric guitar) which gives – I assume an intended – focus to the lyrics and reaffirms the impression that these are the songs of a writer, a man of imagination, a man who is used to creating images.

Try some of these:

‘Cinderella, Prince Charming & Me’:

They’re ready at the clinics for the crackheads and the drunks
The cops go dressed as schoolboys to entrap the creepy monks
The Prince goes out for a final smoke and finds the crystal slipper

‘Vagabond Soul’:

Warrior or poet, I played every role
But no words of wandering found the hinge to your sole


All the faithless women all the unfaithful men
One day we will be honest we will be faithful again


And my flesh is like the tinder and your body is the spark
I smoulder on your altar like incense in the dark
And your heart is like a candle and your lust is like the match
And then you must lie down defenceless as your armour melts like wax” 

‘If This Be Love’

I met a painted lady, she was naked beneath her clothes
She was leaning on her window sill with her naked heart exposed

De Bernieres vocal style has divided people I’ve played it to, from “Makes you focus on the lyrics” to “Too tight, you just want him to let it go a bit more”. Like, say, Tom Waits or Ray Cooper, have a listen and make up your own mind.

Mostly, though, I get the sense that De Bernieres wants these to be songs to be shared and played, an impression that is reinforced by the fact that the chords are included on the lyric sheet in the album.

…and, if you’re wondering, he plays mandolin on about half of the tracks.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: http://louisdebernieresofficial.com/index.html

‘Put Out The Light’ – live:

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