OTW #494: Sulk

Sincere British Songwriting
Sulk

“I think it’s a fair comparison because we write good music, and we’re from England and we’re northern. But I think that’s where it ends, really.”

It’s said with a grimace, but Sulk singer Jonathan Sutcliffe can’t not address the similarities between his group and The Stone Roses. In the lead up to the release of the band’s debut album, ‘Graceless’, it’s a comparison that’s been raised repeatedly.

“We obviously listen to The Stone Roses,” continues Sutcliffe. “But I think there’s a lot more in it, and I think that the album proves that.”

The wait for said long-play set seems to have lasted a while. ‘Graceless’ was originally scheduled for a February release, preceded as it was by a trio of singles. But the delay – the album’s now out on April 15 – hasn’t dulled its impact any.

And, perhaps against the odds, ‘Graceless’ does showcase an act with more to their make-up than simple sound-alike licks borrowed from the Madchester pioneers.

On first impressions, though, the connection is made: these newcomers’ swirling guitar fills and effervescent drumbeats are easily relatable to the sound that defined the dawning of the 1990s. Tracks like ‘Flowers’ and ‘Wishes’ carry characteristics laid down over 20 years ago.

Says Sutcliffe: “I think there are baggy elements within some of the drums, and elements of Britpop in the way that we deliver some of the songs. And there’s obviously some shoegaze in the sounds that we use. But it’s everything we like, all pulled into one, and played in a 2013 way.”

Tracks like ‘The Big Blue’ and ‘Down’ present this suggested depth to Sulk, exhibiting skills that weren’t so apparent in pre-release standalone cuts. The former manages to remind the listener of The Beatles in subtly psychedelic mode, uprooted from a monochrome past and deposited into the vibrant present day.

‘Down’, meanwhile, finds a piercing guitar melody shadowing Sutcliffe’s vocals, each constituent combining to build towards an omnipotent display. Everything leads to ‘End Time’, the live favourite standing proud as this album’s closer. It finds room for a stadium-sized chorus, bringing the curtain down with glissando evocative of ‘70s prog-rockers.

It’s a splendid way to see out a collection entirely self-financed, recorded in Berlin without the backing of a label. “The money was coming from ourselves,” says Sutcliffe, “so we could only do things when it was there. And, living in London, that means banking for the band could be a stretch – we found ourselves living on 33p noodles and cups of tea.”

The frontman continues: “We carried on writing the whole time, through good times and bad. Some might say we’ve been through more bad than good – but those experiences have brought us to this moment. And we’ve constantly written about those experiences. There’s enough for a second album, and even tracks for a third.”

‘Graceless’ will suffice for now. Guitar music was promised to make an almighty return in 2013, but the quality of Sulk’s debut can’t have been forecast. In its area, it’s a genuine contender.

Words by Jonathan Hatchman

Where: 
 London Via “the North”, Sweden and Poland.
What: Sincere British Songwriting
Get 3 Songs: ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Flowers’, ‘End Time’
Unique Fact: Sulk’s lead guitarist, Tomas Kubowicz, can play the whole of Love’s ‘Forever Changes’ LP, on the guitar.

Listen to Sulk's debut album 'Graceless' on ClashMusic.com now.

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