I like Laura Marling.
“If you like Laura Marling you should listen to Lucy Rose, mate”.
Said someone. Once. Probably.
I have to admit, I haven’t until now. But I’m glad I did. And that I waited until this album.
There are obvious similarities. Small, blonde, fringe, acoustic guitar, folksy, happy – almost naïve – sounding songs that hide something else beneath.
While the music, at a cursory listen, seems simple – even just nice, the worst adjective – the lyrical content is not. It’s dark. Whereas with Laura there’s a subtly menacing sexuality, with Lucy it’s harder to pin down.
At school I remember studying ‘Do not go gentle in to that good night’ by Dylan Thomas. Our teacher told us about the terse villanelle form of the poem and the interpretation that he used this strict arrangement in order to wrestle his grief under control.
Lucy Rose is doing something similar on this album. The casual quality of the music is at odds with the lyrical content. There’s the sense that you are trapped in Lucy’s mind, in her room, possibly in the dark, alone. The lack of drums is striking (no pun intended) and adds an extra starkness to the already bare nerves of the album. In the same way as Dylan Thomas, the simplification of her music, the instrumentation, the sound is an effort to gain control of difficult feelings.
This is most evident on final track ‘Song After Song’ where, filled with anxiety and paranoia, Lucy sings about hearing the girl next door playing songs she believes to be about her.
“Maybe I’m not as good as the girl I hear next door…song after song, all about me, my misery”.
I’m not a fan of music reviewers who try and squeeze every fact about the artist they’ve just researched five minutes ago into a few hundred words. Frankly it’s conceited and ostentatious. But for this album you should know what Lucy went through in the process of making it.
For me to claim to be able to label her experience or claim that it speaks for everyone with a mental health condition would also be conceited, but No Words Left seems a pretty much bang-on, and accessible account of what she was going through.
And she manages to do it without self-pity; there’s misery but it’s not miserable.
Fear and loneliness are No Words Left’s leitmotifs. When, on ‘Solo(w)’ she even goes a bit jazz, with a touch of sax beneath the mournful mantra of “solo, solo, solo, solo”, you can feel the emptiness.
There’s also a repeated theme of a mysterious other, at once comforting and terrifying. Who are they? The one who treats her ‘like a fool’. Are they real or in her head? Someone who she turns to for help yet finds she can only worry about. Is it us?
It’s hard to get past the niceness at times but more often than not that little extra effort on behalf of the listener is rewarded.
Lucy does us a favour of summing up the album in ‘The Confines of This World’:
“I really don’t want to bring you down, but I need someone to talk to and that person’s you…the world it keeps on turning, and I guess I’ll keep turning too”.
Words by James Spearing.