Comebacks, auf die die Welt gewartet hat, oder? (XII)
Defiant opener Welfare State is a bitingly self-referential mission statement (“We've been away for a while, but we were never in style”) pledging compassionate support for an underclass abandoned and demonised by right-wing politics. The soaring Beautiful Sadness is Ultrasound in essence: a romantic celebration of alienation, musically reminiscent of the World in Action theme tune (that's a compliment).
The pretty, bittersweet jangle of Nonsense is succinct and subdued by their standards, whereas Twins, Deus Ex Natura and Long Way Home find the band at their most widescreen. The album closes with another pair of unabashedly OTT epics, Glitter Box and Sovereign, the latter of which sounds like Coldplay with cojones (again, that's a compliment).
There's a sense of sweet poetic justice about a band of thwarted oddballs managing to produce such a magnificent album, over a decade after they seemingly threw it all away. Play for Today is a beautiful beast.
‘Play For Today’ is a stunning album, full of warmth, wit and just the right amount of bile. Whilst this may be the follow up to their 1999 debut, it seems the band are fully aware that time has passed, this is not an album they could have been produced in 2000, this is an album for the here and now.
The epic opener ‘Welfare State’ is littered with tongue-in-cheek references to the band’s colourful past. The frank confessional of ‘we crashed and burned but we returned’ and ‘We’ve been away for a while, but we were never in style’ serves to poke fun at, as well as hold their collective hands up, to the rise, fall and rise again of Ultrasound.
‘Twins’ has the sweeping grandeur of the classic early Ultrasound singles, the minimal verses give way to the soaring chorus and if there were any justice in the world, this would be a massive hit single.
‘Nonsense’ is a jangly 60s influenced sugar rush of a tune about the battles between how we see ourselves and how others view us. As Tiny implores ‘I’m useless and I’m ugly, no one understands’ and ‘I’m far too old to make it now’ you feel this is more than a touch of brutal honesty in his words.
The mournful brass of a Colliery Band opens ‘Between Two Rivers’ before the gentle strum of an acoustic and sparse piano introduces the verse. Heart-searching not heart-breaking, few vocalists can deliver a tune like Andrew ‘Tiny’ Woods can, you need look no further than this song for proof.
There is more to ‘Play For Today’ than just epic balladry though, ‘Goodbye Baby, Amen’ is full of spikey punk riffs and as caustic vocals whilst ‘Glitterbox’ allows Vanessa Best lead vocal duties and is darkly soulful.
The debut album ‘Everything Picture’ was at times brilliant but all too often was just sprawling and unfocused. ‘Play For Today’ is finally delivering on all of that early promise; elegant and intelligent in a way indie hasn’t been for years. Cherish this album while you can, God knows when the next one will come along.