Do the hairs ever stand up on the back of your neck when you’re listening to music? For me it doesn’t happen all that often and it’s something that is only going to happen a few times for any particular song. But it happened on no fewer than FOUR occasions the first time I listened to Martin John Henry’s debut solo LP ‘The Other Half of Everything’ all the way through.
Martin was, of course, the singer/songwriter in my favourite Scottish band of recent years, De Rosa. So I’ve been looking forward to his solo debut pretty much since that band’s sad demise a couple of years ago. And the good news is that TOHOE is everything – and more – that a De Rosa fan could have hoped for.
Since getting to hear the record for the first time a week ago more than half the tunes on it have been on near permanent rotation on the internal jukebox. First up was the fantastic poppy single, ‘Ribbon on a Bough’ but at least half a dozen of the other songs on the record have been jostling for attention ever since.
The thing is, even now, I don’t think I have a favourite song on the record. The songs all, to a greater or lesser extent, are classic Henry but as you would expect there are a few new twists thrown in.
Electronic sounds were first introduced on De Rosa’s second LP ‘Prevention’ but that record was quite eclectic, segregating the electronic songs from the others which relied principally on traditional guitars and keyboards.
On TOHOE, there are undoubtedly songs which are heavier on the electronics, such as the almost banging electronic pop song ‘Span’. But in general these elements are fully integrated into the arrangements, for example with something which sounds remarkably like scratching adding another layer to the conclusion of ‘First Light’. There’s also some lovely cello dotted throughout the record.
None of which should lead you to believe that there’s not a variety of songs on offer. The more acoustic tunes such as ‘Seventh Song’ are as heartfelt as ever, but the epic magnificence of De Rosa remains very much in evidence on songs like the glorious closer ‘There’s A Phantom Hiding In My Loft’ and ‘Only Colour’.
There’s also an absolutely ‘WTF just happened?’ moment midway through the LP which is simultaneously both at odds with the rest of the record yet also fits perfectly.
‘Prevention’ was my favourite record of 2009 yet ‘The Other Half of Everything’ is even better. An absolute triumph and further proof that Henry is one of the finest Scottish songwriters of the 21st century.
‘The Other Half of Everything’ is released on Gargleblast Records on Monday 10th October. Pre-order it here and get access to part of the album via download straight away.
The album is preceded by a strictly limited CD single ‘Ribbon on a Bough’ released on Monday (3rd). Pre-order it here whilst you still can.
Martin plays two full band LP launches before the official release date. The first is a free, in-store at Avalanche Records in Edinburgh on Friday 7th and the main launch is at Stereo in Glasgow on Saturday 8th (tickets). Support for the Glasgow date comes from the Seventeenth Century and Adam Stafford.
Declaration of Interest – this review is based on an advanced e-copy of the record. But you can pre-order it in the same way as I did! See above.