In the Fullness of Time is the appropriately titled and much anticipated full length debut by the Birmingham quintet Goodnight Lenin which arrives in time to be hailed as one of my albums of the year. Formed in 2009, the band, frontman/guitarist and chief songwriter John Fell, guitarist Liam Conway, John Joe McCreedy on keys, violin and mandolin, bassist Matt Sherlock and Sam Berry on drums, have gradually built an enviable reputation and following on the back of couple of singles and EPs alongside select live shows that have ranged from festival stages to Birmingham Cathedral.
Initially, a fairly folksy outfit that drew the inevitable Mumford comparisons, while not losing those rootsy colours. they’ve gradually adopted a more Americana feel with strong CS&N and vintage Neil Young flavours, something underlined by their Record Store Day covers of Almost Cut My Hair and Helpless. Certainly, you can hear the Young influence on The Reason, a number that could have come straight from the Harvest or After The Goldrush sessions while piano backed ballad Tell-Tale Heart actually includes the phrase ‘heart of gold’ in the lyrics.
Their affection for the American folk-rock scene of late 60s/early 70s is also evident from A Cautionary Tale, an acoustic based number with military snare that can’t but help evoke thoughts of The Byrds singing 5th Dimension, although its layered sound and ringing Christmas bells guitars also conjures the cascading, euphoric tone of the chorus to Fairy Tale of New York.
There’s always been a wintry air to the band, their sound capturing the crisp, still freshness and glistening sparkle of rural evening snowscapes with their shimmering, chiming guitars, ringing piano and trebly, echoey vocals and, the album mixed by Jonathan Wilson, you’ll hear it to potent effect here on the tumbling love unfulfilled of Weary (“maybe I am too young for you”) and the yearning Young-like mid-tempo ballad You Were Always Waiting, the album’s first single, which opens to the sound of whistling wind and gradually builds to a cascading waterfall of a chorus.
That’s another thing about them, encircled by a triumphal sonic halo, they do anthemic with the best, and proceed to on several occasions, notably the tremulous swell of piano ballad Tell-Tale Heart and the organ backed waltzing Carry The Burden of Youth In Your Heart, a trebly memoir of love and loss that climaxes like an arms-linked sway-a-long on the choir boys terrace before merging into the brief title track wheezing organ instrumental to come out the other side with the amped up, snarly electric guitars of Old Cold Hands, a five and a half minute ebb and flow reminder that they have solid muscle as well as bruised hearts that builds to a magical multi-voiced epic chorus singalong finale.
Elsewhere, the gently rolling piano ballad (though I’d have loved to hear trumpets at the end) Another Day marries Young and Lennon while Constant Lover (written by Conway) is an acoustic broken romance swayer that nods to another band influence, Phosphorescent, but also elicits thoughts of classic Robin Gibb. On an album where every track competes as a highlight, it closes on another wintry soundscape with the guitar jangling, military beat, echoing soft-toned vocal Electric Leaves, an excursion into West Coast psychedelic folk rock tinted that leaves you with a tingle down the back of your neck.
I’ve already played this album more times than any other this year and it sounds ever more glorious with each listen. It’s taken a while to surface and there’s a danger it may get overlooked in the seasonal flurry, but, with a full tour in March/April to coincide with a second single release, music of such luminescence won’t remain hidden for long.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Static Caravan