City Forgiveness, the fifth studio album from the Wave Pictures, is a rare thing: an album full of substance and ideas, but bound in by style. It’s a road trip album, forged from notes that lead singer David Tattersall took on a six week tour stateside. Indeed, it has a leisurely quality, a stillness, that you might associate with driving for hours cross country in a straight line.
The strength of this album is its lyrics. No, in fact, to call it a “strength” does not do it justice. Tattersall’s writing on this record has the kind of sublimity that undergraduates in libraries could write thousands of words about. And I don’t mean because it’s dense or over-complex. Just because it’s unusual, poised. “I have never seen so many sheep / I have never seen so many cows / I was born to a family a little while ago / I was born to myself just now.” Or: “My body is a broken TV / Endlessly playing a flickering picture of the boy I used to be.” These are the sort of words that can make you exhale loudly in delight.
Lyrically, City Forgiveness doesn’t sound like an album anyone else could have written. It does, though, sound like an album other people could have performed. There are choices of presentation that will divide listeners, including Wave Pictures fans. One is Tattersall’s newly acquired vocal acrobatics: his persistence in making lots of different notes across the same vowel like somebody doing a poor Morrissey impression.
Two, is all the twaddley guitar stuff. Tattersall’s playing has an old-school rock vibe that (more than anything) distinguishes this album’s aesthetic from the rest of the band’s output. Some listeners will adore this indulgence, others will just hear showing off. Three is that this is a double album. Some will be thankful for the band’s generosity and not want the (almost) hour and a half playback to end. For a small few, CD1 will be enough.
City Forgiveness, then, has a road trip aesthetic. It plods from town to town. Takes ages. And no one really knows if it’s a good idea. But, boy, is there stuff to find. It’s an album of moments; of interesting events and the mechanical things that drive towards them.
Words: Tom Moyser