Man & The Echo present their eponymous debut album, produced by Neil Comber (MIA, Django Django). It's a soulful, poetic, eleven-track statement from a band clearing their own space amidst a cluttered musical landscape. The album skirts numerous musical signposts, spanning the likes of The Smiths, Dexys, Pulp, 50/60s crooning, blue eyed soul and much more, arriving at a sound that isn't retro as much as ricocheting through pop's many decades and landing squarely in the post-Brexit, conflicted, chaotic UK of the here and now.
The album's opener "Distance Runner" asserts itself as a sparkling homage to ‘northern otherness' – pylons, graffiti, farmer's fields and containers, taking inspiration from Paul Farley and Michael Symmons-Roberts' book The Edgelands. The sublime ABC-ish northern funky "Operation Margarine," blends disco and 1950's French literary theory. Inspired by Roland Barthes' Mythologies and the essay of the same name which explores the idea that margarine is advertised in the same way a church or army is upheld: by virtue of its own faults. Not your typical pop song fodder, the band nevertheless cram this idea into their catchiest, most up-tempo tune to date.
The soulful "Very Personally Yours" references "Cheshire grippers" – men who stare, anvil-faced, with their pints. The dreamlike "Goodnight To Arms" came to front man Gaz Roberts after he read Ernest Hemingway's Farewell To Arms and made a comparison between the book's ailing protagonist and nurse, and himself and his wife, in the days when they had no money and would nurse a coke in a pub for hours.
Elements of the record draw on Gaz's experiences in his job of six years as a disability welfare rights officer, with "Care Routine" and "The Cold is Stronger Than You Are" highlighting the difficulties faced by those in the unheard corners of society. There aren't many acts willing to tackle such matters head-on, and fewer still who can do so as engagingly as Man & The Echo.