On a casual first listen, the immediately noticeable quirkiness of Why Wait for Failure? makes it difficult to believe that singer/songwriter Will Tattersdill hails from Birmingham. That was, after all, the Midlands conurbation that spawned straight-faced giants like Black Sabbath, UB40 and more recently, dour gloom-mongers Editors. But delve a little deeper and similarities with some of the lesser known bands of the city emerge. Birmingham has also produced some very interesting experimental and poppy electronic music, as is evidenced in the work of Pram, Magoo and Broadcast.
As his alter-ego FaceOmeter, Will released his first album To Infinitives Split way back in 2009 and has attained an impressive cult status across the UK for his offbeat idiosyncratic songs. But while that recording was very much a do it yourself bedroom project, he took a more ambitious approach for its follow up. Decamping to an Oxford studio with producer Dean McCarthy, who has also worked with Laura Marling and Stornoway on live sound, Will recruited acclaimed session drummer Richard O’Brien and several collaborators from the local folk music scene.
The album is announced by a fanfare of sorts – albeit played on bass guitar – which turns out to be one of several false starts to Full of Incident, with its introduction also attempted on guitar and vocals before the acoustic guitar gets things underway proper and Will declares: ‘All right. Here we go then.’ He delivers a rapid-fire surreal description of a ‘garden or something not quite like it, where some things don’t quite fit’ and in a later moment of self-awareness, mentions that ‘brooks aren’t the only thing babbling‘. The Hectic Eclectic Folk Choir adds a rousing basso chorus that demands that the listener joins in, before the song comes to an abrupt end, leaving the choir’s earworm wiggling into the next track.
While the choir is employed to memorable effect on several other songs – most notably dance floor nightmare Unwillingness to Dance and the ragged sea shanty Pirate Mariachi, the album is not all campfire sing-alongs. The gentle, relaxing multitracked harmonies of Child of Monkey Horse! give the song a soothing lullaby feel and a couple of tracks are backed by the 8-bit electronica beats of American producer Samarei.
Drawing inspiration for his brand of descriptive storytelling from literature as well as music, Will weaves everything from Romantic poetry to modern science fiction into his lyrics, while his blink-and-you’ll miss-it delivery demands several close listens to catch the details. Sometimes, an immediate second hearing is necessary to be quite sure of what was said: ‘You could slice it with a fork’, is buried within The Singular Adventures of Sally the Tumbleweed.
By the album’s final song, Okay, So That Happened, Will is ready to take a look at himself, his work and the strange creature he’s grown into, reaching the conclusion that he’s ‘still learning how to be better’. If he manages to find a way to improve upon the material here, it will certainly be worth hearing.
For those who can get to grips with the wealth of entertaining and humorous lyrics, Why Wait for Failure? is a highly memorable collection of fast paced sing-along songs. Those who can’t should stick to the choir parts on what may well be one of the most unique records of 2014.
As for the title of the collection, Will says: “People say that when you’ve failed as an artist you spend your time barrelling between tiny clubs and village halls, playing irrelevancies to crowds who’ve never heard of you and putting all your creative energy into desperately squeezing out four or five new songs a year. To which I always say: why wait for failure?” Sensible words: he may have to wait for some time.
Review by: Roy Spencer
Why Wait for Failure? is Out Now
Available via Bandcamp