Anyone who’s ever read so much as a sentence of PressPLAY would know that we don’t half like a lol or two. So, having recently read a rather deep and stimulating interview with MONEY, we’re aware that if we don’t debate the vagaries of existentialist theory at some juncture we’ve probably missed the point. However, what we do have in our arsenal is the full-on live experience of the band from their London gig some months ago – nothing could have elicited more superlatives from us about the Manchester four-piece than that special night, where art and live music collided to give us quite possibly the greatest gig experience we’ve ever had (and we say that having seen Beyonce as well).
Since then, we’ve been wondering whether that magic could ever translate into a studio. The Shadow of Heaven is something we’ve certainly been excited about since the beginning of the year, but the hoopla surrounding the group has divided most into opposing camps claiming either profundity or claptrap. Before we go any further, for our tuppence worth: The Shadow of Heaven is perhaps one of the most important, essential records this year, worth leaving this review right now to purchase. If you’re still here, well, we’ll tell you for why.
Firstly: that sound, that sound. Just like their live work, the album plonks you into something of a sensory flotation tank, lashed by waves of reverb and Jamie Lee’s glorious falsetto. Whether it’s the opener So Long (God Is Dead) to the stunning, 3:05-long goosebump that is The Cruelty of Godliness, that sound is so bloody involving that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else around you.
Secondly: yes, the themes. Where others of their ilk these days tackle the inconsequential, we doff our caps to the lads for having a genuine mission statement and a resolve we haven’t seen since the Verve. It’s a challenging listen and it’ll take several repeats to fully mine the layers within each line (some of which, inevitably, are a bit cumbersome), but entire theses could be written on tracks like album closer Black. Whether or not you want your songs to debate concepts of deities and false idols, MONEY ought to be lauded for sticking to their vision at every turn.
Thirdly: Bluebell Fields (below). If there’s a greater, better-constructed, more beautiful song this year then we haven’t heard it. Genuinely flawless.
If all of this sounds heavy-handed, then we ought to clarify that MONEY have very much remembered that they are musicians, still packaging their polemic in acceptable chunks for a casual listener. But The Shadow of Heaven remains an uncompromising (though never impenetrable) introduction to one of the finest new bands this country has produced and, given they’ve made us go an entire review without even attempting a gag, an album worth owning and revering immediately.