Lightships: Electric Cables

Think of this approach to pop/rock songwriting as a stretching out of time, like time-lapse photography that captures the flickering rays of the sun.


Electric Cables

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2012-04-17
UK Release Date: 2012-04-02

Gerard Love’s ability to sing in a languorous way over dreamy music should be familiar to any fan of his band Teenage Fanclub, who are now over two decades into their career. Go back and listen, for example, to “Sweet Days Waiting”, my favorite song on their most recent LP, 2010’s Shadows. Think of that approach to pop/rock songwriting as a stretching out of time, like time-lapse photography that captures the flickering rays of the sun. Then take that and stretch it out into an album, and you’ll have Lightships’ Electric Cables, Love’s new solo project, which puts him in front of a band made up of other Scottish musicians, including current Fanclub guitarist Dave McGowan, former Fanclub drummer Brendan O’Hare, Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian and Tom Crossley, who played flute with International Airport and the Pastels -- including on their great 2009 album with Tenniscoats, Two Sunsets, which, come to think of it, has a similar sound to Electric Cables. Love also played in the touring band to support that album.

The band name Lightships and title Electric Cables seem to speak of electricity, but the body of light most often referred to in the lyrics is the sun – by name, on the songs “The Warmth of the Sun” and “Sunlight to the Dawn” or by inference, on songs like “Every Blossom” and “Photosynthesis”. The natural world is a dominant theme, and natural light is the dominant sound. Listening to Electric Cables, I keep thinking of films where the characters spend most of their time outdoors, on picnics and vacations, letting the filmmaker shoot the way light shines through trees, the way sunshine glows on our skin. I love films like that -- Apichatpong Weerasethakul ‘s Blissfully Yours, Eric Rohmer films like Claire’s Knee and La Collectionneuse, Jean Renoir’s Picnic on the Grass and A Day in the Country, the sunlight-heavy, observational films of Trần Anh Hùng (The Vertical Ray of the Sun); the list could go on and on. Electric Cables offers a similar atmosphere. It feels like escape, carefree, and also like the musical equivalent of our own thoughts and observations on an especially pretty day, as we walk through the city, town or countryside.

The music matches that, with layered guitars, relaxing and thinking outdoors. “The Warmth of the Sound” has a pleasant instrumental reverie at the end; “Photosynthesis” has piano, flutes and other instruments wandering around behind Love’s consistently mellifluous voice. This might be described by some critics as psychedelic, because of the way the music emulates the daze of the sun, but the songs themselves aren’t experimental freakouts but simple, daydreaming pop songs. (Note: I write “simple” not as a criticism, but with the utmost of respect and appreciation. Writing ‘simple’ pop songs is an eternal art). The songs are very direct in their descriptions, feelings and melodies. On one song, “Silver and Gold”, Love does sing in a strange light falsetto at first, but at just about every other moment on the album, he does little to obscure what he’s singing and the feelings within the words.

For all the talk of the changing of seasons, of rivers and plants and the role the sun plays in their lives, as a writer Love isn’t a naturalist so much as a romantic. As you might imagine, at its core the album is often about love, about how we express expectation, admiration, hope, longing, pleasure and joy. The third song, and current single, “Sweetness in Her Spark” spells that out, making clear that, like most pop music, these are songs about loved ones and would-be loved ones. They are songs about other people and how we feel about them, songs that reflect our inner conversations with ourselves and other people – imaginary, unsent letters, emails, phone calls and conversations. This is evident before he clearly mentions another person. It’s in the air if not the words. From the start, Electric Cables is all sweetness and light, warmth and comfort. It contains a lingering note of disappointment in life, too, that’s inevitable – but it’s sweet, lovely-sounding disappointment.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.