REVIEW: Charlie Cunningham – Permanent Way

Remember when you used to read things like this on paper instead of a screen? Yeah? You old bastard, you.

Remember Melody Maker? Do you? The always slightly better rival to the NME was delivered to my doorstep on a regular basis. I bloody loved it. It was full of the indie boys I adored and wanted to be like, before I found some taste in music and moved on. But even then, even as I read Melody Maker from cover to cover, I always had one burning question.

Why the fuck was it called Melody Maker? Would sort of sense did that make? It didn’t make any melodies, not even if you turned the pages really quickly. Stupid bloody name.

Anyway. Ridiculous rant over.

It’s gonna seem even more ridiculous when I tell you that the reason that came into my head was because of Charlie Cunningham. Because it wouldn’t be a stupid name for him. Charlie is a true melody maker. And on his second album, Permanent Way, he has taken that knack to another level. He creates these little earworms on so many of the songs here that I’ve decided to rename him.

Meet my man Mr Melody Maker.

And if you wonder why he deserves such a moniker, you need only dig in to songs such as ‘Don’t Go Far’ and ‘Headlights’. In these two tracks, and many more on the album, he has an uncanny ability to weave his words together in a way that makes you want to move. I hate the word catchy, but his songs deserve that description. His melodies will seep into your brain and stick with you; they will be there when you wake in the morning.

While some might find his music a little simplistic, I would say that such a conclusion betrays an uncareful ear. Charlie makes his songs sound simple, but they aren’t. He is a hugely talented guitarist, as demonstrated particularly strongly on ‘Force of Habit’ and the album’s title track. He has a powerful and affecting voice, but uses it in a restrained fashion. And while he sometimes seems to choose melodies over lyrics, his songs pack an undoubtable emotional punch.

All of these factors combined make Permanent Way a really impressive second album, and one from which it is hard to pick out a standout song. It is possible, though, that the album starts more strongly than it ends. The opening quartet, ‘Permanent Way’, ‘Don’t Go Far’, ‘Sink In’, and ‘Headlights’ are the strongest songs on the album. When he slows it down on a couple of occasions later in the album, those melodies that he is such a master of aren’t as prominent and it isn’t as easy to remain interested. But that is me in my pickiest mood; overall, Charlie has taken a huge step forward with this LP and I hope it will help to grow what should be a much bigger fanbase.

Words by Fran Slater

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