The Wave Pictures are surely one of the British music scene’s best kept secrets. The trio relentlessly crank out music and then tour themselves daft seemingly for the sheer joy of it, yet stubbornly remain on the cusp of broader acclaim. You will never see stories of The Wave Pictures reflecting on their five year hiatus whilst musing over recording their latest EP for nine months in The Bahamas. Not content with generating a constant stream of music they are also partial to a bit of collaborative work. This has included being the occasional backing band for international man of mystery Stanley Brinks, and leftfield heroes like Darren Hayman and Daniel Johnston. It was the latter who provided the inspiration for their last record Artistic Vice, a tour-only release of Johnston covers, which came out at the back end of last year. Now, a few months later, we have another new album and a major tour to go with it of course.
Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon is a collaboration of sorts too. Renaissance man par excellence Wild Billy Childish has written the music and produced the album whilst David Tattersall, frontman and guitarist of The Wave Pictures, created the lyrics. To cap it all the album was recorded in Childish’s studio using 1960s equipment to compliment his singular music vision. Infamously, Childish gives short shrift to those whom he deems self-indulgent. Childish’s comment that The Who started going wrong when Roger Daltrey started wearing his Nan’s tablecloths is a case in point. Yet any prolonged listen to The Wave Pictures is to understand that they are anything but singular in their output. One of the numerous joys of The Wave Pictures is their ability to leap in and out of genres with ridiculous fluidity and ease. Their vision is broad and bright, cracked and crazed, gleefully skipping stylistic boundaries with abandon.
So how does the marriage of Childish’s asceticism and The Wave Pictures’ multiplicity pan out? Superbly as it happens. This is a record which has a staggering vitality to it, a sense of focus and purpose that is irresistible. As a piece of work it is all lean and no fat, a race ready greyhound of a record. The first three tracks are glorious and set the tone for the whole album. ‘Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon’ (the track) rattles out irresistibly; tumbling drums bounce off the guitars, whilst the chorus is begging to be sung along to. ‘I Could Hear The Telephone (3 Floors Above Me)’ is a rasping piece of lost garage, led by a clipped precise riff, which grooves wonderfully. Similarly ‘Katie’ has a fuzzy, solid groove which hooks round and round and round… It is hard to recall a time when The Wave Pictures have sounded so tight as a band; everything sounds necessary and entirely spot on. This is not lazy revisionism but music mined from a different seam, that brings something new to the surface, something essential and thrilling. Even the cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Green River’ sounds fresh, new blood coursing through old veins. The lonesome harmonica complimenting Tattersall’s vocal superbly with the Louisiana swampland convincingly transported to just outside Melton Mowbray. It is important to consider Tattersall’s vocal for a moment, which has a definitive edge to it not heard on previous records. He sounds more authoritative throughout, giving many of the songs a tense edge and an air of menace. No more so than on the first single off the album ‘Pea Green Coat’ where clearly Tattersall has been wronged and he has had enough. You believe him. ‘Pea Green Coat’ is another thrilling terse three minutes of music which brings favourable comparisons with the likes of Dr. Feelgood.
It’s not all hard edges and tight angles. The record also has its mellower and more tender moments. The exquisite ‘At Dusk You Took Down The Blinds’ has gossamer soft lines of guitars with Tattersall singing “and we curl up like hedgehogs and whisper to one another” melting any granite heart in the vicinity. ‘Fake Fox Fur Pillowcase’ has the wonderful line “I look like a giraffe with a lopsided face” then builds to this staggering Tom Verlaine-like solo. The only problem here is that the song is way way too short. And the same can be said for all the tracks here. 13 songs coming in at just over 40 minutes and all of them gems. You will be left wanting more.
So open your arms and embrace The Wave Pictures. Let yourself bask in Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon and revel in a band at the top of their form given extra impetus and focus by Wild Billy Childish. The hope must be that this collaboration is not a one-off, that somewhere down the line they will work together again. This is too good not to be repeated. It is great rock and roll and we need more of it.