Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the case these days that quality song-writing, strong stagecraft and assured sound control belong in the past? If it’s so, then no one has told Mike Baillie and his bandmates in The Lonely Together. They are happily producing the goods with an admirable lack of compromise.
In fact, many bands up and down the country are functioning at highly professional levels, yet playing for beer money. The Lonely Together, however, look, sound and feel a little more assured, a little more cohesive and a bit more aspirational in scope and scale.
There are some early musings over electronic possibilities on a Nord keyboard before the opening number thunders into a highly controlled, post-Biffy cacophony as Baillie establishes his lead vocal credentials from a standing start. This sort of highly disciplined thrash can make you feel as if “you’ve been Clyro’d”, but The Lonely Together have more bright light than heavy shading in their songs. The arrangements of tunes like Be Strong Frances and A Million Summers may seek the open spaces of a big country, but I suspect that Baillie’s songs spring from an intimate pop-shaped heart.
The Lonely Together have so far produced recordings that tend to drift easily between dreampop imagery, and muscular melody with a particularly strong pulse. In performance, their ambition is arguably larger than the space onstage that Duke’s can provide. Indeed, their festival qualifications are firmly asserted in the gregariously anthemic Congregation, and a deconstructed/reconstructed version of The Beatles’ It’s Getting Better. The latter is delivered in a slightly wistful vocal with a lone guitar accompaniment of the kind beloved by music fest mudlarks the world over. It’s clear that where the myriad Biffy-clones rely on crash and bash, The Lonely Together have strong balance and spatial awareness.
This may be because Baillie has been around the block with bands, and there is a faint aura of world-weariness about songs like Keep A Secret that made me think of Ryan Adams’ protecting veil and Stuart Adamson’s fatal empathy. It’s an interesting contrast to hear embedded in songs that essentially aim to please a crowd – preferably a large one.
Still, Duke’s Corner was respectably full, appropriately noisy and aptly welcoming towards The Lonely Together who are undoubtedly searching for, and recruiting new souls to follow them into the blissful realms of post-indie maturity.
Michael S. Clark