Richard Hawley – ’Standing at the Sky’s Edge’
Buy Standing At the Sky’s Edge
Like most of his solo output so far, former Pulp and Longpigs guitarist Richard Hawley has put his hometown of Sheffield at centre-stage of his new album ’Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, with the Sky’s Edge area of the city creating a neat metaphor for being at the edge of despair and being isolated/introspective and all that.
Fans of Hawley, though, may have been a bit worried to hear that this is probably the only similarity between ’…. Sky’s Edge’ and his earlier work – after hearing talk of heavy, swirling atmospherics, skyscraping guitars and haunting psychedelia replacing his trademark gentle, mid-tempo croon. But they needn’t worry – by introducing these elements Hawley has made not only the best album of his solo career, but one that outstrips all his previous work with Pulp and is easily the album of the year so far.
From the atmospheric, Eastern-tinged opening of ’She Brings The Sunlight’, to the powerful, early-Verve guitar tracks of album closer ’Before’, ’… Sky’s Edge’ is a rich and textured journey involving all of life’s big issues – love, loss, hope, death and erm… broken Britain.
While ’… Sky’s Edge’ is dominated with Hawley raging against the dying of the light, in terms of the death of his friend and the decline of society, it’s telling that he opens the album, and introduces his heavier sound, with a sweet love lyric about his wife – ”She brings the sunlight / She makes the world right”.
The title track brings in the dominant themes of the album, with Hawley lamenting the state of the country and the extremes to which it drives normal, hard-working people – using biblical characters to ram the point home: “Joseph was a good man / But he killed his wife…This was the end of a desperate man / With only love in his eyes and no evil hands / He was standing at the sky’s edge”. The heavy distorted guitars and rumbling rhythm section adds to the drama and impact of the song, which ends with a majestic, Doors-esque coda.
’Time Will Bring You Winter’ carries on the mystic Eastern influences introduced by ’She Brings The Sunlight’, and creates a stunning, shimmering chorus that Doves would be proud of, while ’Down In The Woods’ is the albums first proper rock song, bringing in rolling rock riffs and angry vocals about a brainwashed society and some psychedelic tangents about solar flares.
The most recognisable Richard Hawley song on ’… Sky’s Edge’ is ’Seek It’, with its gentle melody and nostalgic lyrics. It’s a nice excursion from the heavily layered tracks that came before and leads nicely into the shining jewel in the crown that is ’Don’t Stare At The Sun’, a gloriously epic and emotional soul searcher that brilliantly combines Hawley’s strengths as an introspective songwriter with his powerful new musical punch.
’The Wood Colliers Grave’ and ’Leave Your Body Behind You’ make a nice one-two combination of haunting storytelling and then the harsh reality of death, which leads us into the epic album closer ’Before’.
’Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ is the album that puts Richard Hawley at the top of the tree of British singer-songwriters and should see him move beyond his cult following (and soundtracking ice cream commercials) to become a major force in mainstream music.