The Guild League: Private Transport

Tim Alves

The Guild League

Private Transport

Label: Matinee
US Release Date: 2003-01-06
UK Release Date: 2003-02-24

Rock is no stranger to supergroups, but the concept has fallen by the wayside since the late 1970s. Maybe it was the punk influence, which decried any kind of excess while blasting out three chords and the truth, but chances are the massive egos of the individuals involved in most all-star gatherings caused the idea's downfall. For the last true rock supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys, Roy Orbison died a few weeks after their first album was released; the unholy alliance of Orbison with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and . . . Jeff Lynne was no more, as was the supergroup compromised of equally famous rock stars. And Jeff Lynne? Whose banana did he have to peel to get that gig?

But while those dinosaur megabands are at the point of extinction, a new way to collaborate is taking over the indie music scene. Take one (relatively) unknown songwriter, surround him/her with friends from other bands and watch the magic happen. This strategy worked for Gordon Lightbody and his roving band of Scottish indie musicians -- aka the Reindeer Section, whose delicate, pretty songs over two albums are easy on the ears -- and now it's working for Tali White and his intercontinental band, the Guild League. White, who wrote and sings on every track for the band's debut album Private Transport, employs friends from Australia and California, tapping the Lucksmiths (White's own band), Aisler's Set, the Fairways, and Sodastream, among others, for help. The result is a sometimes quiet, sometimes jangly -- but always engaging -- album that showcases White's talent for breathy vocals and sharp arrangements that just so happen to include 13 other musicians.

If the album title isn't warning enough, White's lyrics are obsessed with travel. "Jet set … go" is the album's first single, and jaunts along at a quick pace as White sings about skipping from Spain to London to Vietnam to San Francisco and leaving behind the worries of everyday life: "On the banks of the mighty Mekong with beers / Getting old is the least of my fears". The travelogue-like descriptions may as well be used by the tourist boards for each locale; White paints each stop as the perfect vacation spot.

The next stop on the journey is a long stay in London with "Cosmetropolis (London Swings)", complete with a blast of horns and a saloon-ready romp on the piano to help the song live up to its title. A tale about the 9 to 5 life in England's capital city, White longs for spring and summer and Friday nights on the town; he's drawn to the simpler things in life that give so much pleasure.

And that is White's other focus throughout the album. Songs such as "Balham Rising", "The Photographer", "Gravity", and "Cornflakes" are celebrations of the everyday happenings that are overlooked. White found a way right to my heart -- a song about the wonders of cereal -- but never tries to be overly cute. His voice gives the songs a calming foundation and never overwhelms the playing of his many friends over the course of 13 songs.

White's orchestration is simple but nothing short of inviting. The cello and violin are used liberally, never more beautifully than on the instrumental "Baggage Handling". Another highlight, "A Faraway Place" uses an upright bass and handclaps to abut a cappella interludes and gorgeous vocal harmonies. "Siamese Couplets" features White, uh, rapping in a distinct Australian accent about the joys of Southeast Asia . . . it's a quirky little treat.

White also released "Jet Set . . . Go" as a single, with "Cornflakes" and "A Faraway Place" demos filling out the tracks. The latter two songs are in very rough form, as White uses all of his own vocals for the a cappella parts and leaves out most of the instrumentation. It's only worth checking out for diehard fans.

Private Transport puts forth a fantastic foot forward for the new and improved supergroup concept, and any fan of the Lucksmiths would be remiss in not checking it out. Any fan of gentle indie pop should take note: The Guild League is worth a look or three.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

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

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