In response to an uncertain, overwhelming world shrunken by pandemic isolation, The Little Unsaid grasp firmly at the straws of positivity for this, their seventh album, Lick The Future’s Lips. The seductive, provocative title is something of a manifesto: a refusal to withdraw, a determination to dance on and tweak the nose of life.
The Little Unsaid comprises award winning singer-songwriter John Elliott, Mariya Brachkova (synths, keyboards, backing vocals), Alison D’Souza (viola) and Tim Heymerdinger (drums/percussion). Elliott’s gentle voice is also surprisingly flexible, powerful and expressive. His song lyrics often refer to the natural world, and there’s a near constant atmospheric sub-track of voice, instruments, electronic and other noises lending a subtle ambient wash that enhance the songs and the band’s excellent performances.
The album title is the first line of the first song ‘Flux’ about defining ourselves less rigidly. The song’s two distinct elements, a delicious soft-shoe shuffling percussion clashing with spangly 80s electric guitar, mirror the theme. Although in quite a different mood, the crescendos of ‘Limitless’ seem to offer another take on a similar idea.
‘Bug In Amber’ ripples outwards from daily mundanities “wet tea leaves in the morning” to memories of global travel, a freedom (temporarily?) lost, but still looking hopefully forward. In contrast, the impassioned ‘Bloodline’ is a visceral response to the Black Lives Matter campaign and the need not to avert our gaze when faced with injustice.
There are a couple of epic-scale songs like ‘The Great Nowhere’, a Dylan-meets-Springsteen wide open skies road movie and a sure-fire crowd-rouser. But the assertive power ballad choruses, “come on, this is me calling your bluff” in ‘New Year’s Eve’ spin off into an intense poetic rant inspired by the force of the sea. Elliott cites Nick Cave as an influence and here is where it shows most strongly.
‘Act Of Vengeance’ is a perfect sparkling slice of shiny 90s pop, a high octane call to action, “set yourself alight, you might be someone else’s beacon” a rousing metaphor of the inspiring and the rebel. If stylistically it calls to mind bands like The Rembrandts, then ‘In Daylight’ is more of a The Fray mood, a deeply reflective song about figuring out positive things to keep us going through hard times.
Hypnotic funky bass, occasionally pierced by ‘Thriller’-ish crashing chords, reveal a steely determination to summon up ‘Some Miracle’, before the consciously country song ‘Half Alive’, originally written several years ago for the theatre, revels in the genre’s traditional themes of melancholy and survival.
The brief spark of a human life is celebrated in the 1970s-era Bowie-esque, ‘Pass The Time’. The fickleness of time “sometimes this life can feel like one long insomniac night” and yet “it’s been so sublime, just to pass the time”. It’s a beautiful, uplifting song and a fitting way to end.
As someone previously unfamiliar with The Little Unsaid, Lick The Future’s Lips has turned out to be a real grower with every listen. There’s such a lot to engage with: intriguing lyrics, imaginative musicianship and rich melody hooks. Listen closely to what the little’un said, that Yorkshire lad, he’s onto something.
Artist website: www.thelittleunsaid.com
‘Flux’ – official video: