Following the release of their swaggering debut EP, ‘If I Was A Girl’ which created ripples, if not waves, on both sides of the Atlantic, and with an extensive collection of acclaimed idiosyncratic shows under their belts, The Cellophane Flowers – Fra, Ian, Luca and Nick – have teamed up with Dave Allen (The Cure, The Charlatans, Human League) to record their debut album, ‘Staring At The World,’ due for release on December 3rd.
A dreamy throwback to the playfully dark indie-pop of the 80s, this astonishingly emotive effort fizzes with infectious brilliance and vivacity. Ostensibly taking their name from a ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ lyric, the Flowers seem intent on establishing their psychedelic roots before even sounding a note, placing themselves in the category of ‘psychopop’; focusing on catchy melodies, spaced-out atmospheres and BIG choruses to contrast with the witty, dark lyrics à la Belle & Sebastian or The Smiths.
The happy, looped guitar could easily be coming from the same Gretsch John Squire made famous with The Stone Roses on that brilliantly memorable eponymous album. It probably isn’t, but the Manchester foursome’s early indie-pop sound certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by Flowers’ guitarist Ian Sumner – no relation to New Order’s Bernard – who announces himself part way through ‘Voices’ with a whimsical riff reminiscent of Squire’s early work on ‘Sally Cinnamon’, offering a further ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ type nod on the energetic ‘The Promise’ before drifting into a lush turn that wouldn’t be far removed from a record by The Cure in the confidently cool ‘Pendulum Eyes’.
Sumner’s luscious fretwork continues to impress throughout ‘Staring At The World’ and at times plays like a second, if slightly less striking, voice when infused with Francesca Corradini’s seductive swagger, which bursts with passion and exaggerated diction, delicately blending shades of light and dark like a Caravaggio painting, bellowing a sound reminiscent of Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes, Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls and Kim Gordon from her youth, only slightly more sonic.
Credit must also go to the rhythm section, bucking the trend of most indie-pop groups by making a statement of their own, not slipping by unnoticed in a sea of guitar and vocal driven treble. The funky-ska bass of Luca Napolitano, who also designed the excellent album artwork, perfectly partners Nick Guy’s eclectic drumming throughout, their harmonious partnership providing a raucous launch-pad of rhythm, off of which Corradini’s vocals can spring, peppered with Sumner’s glowing rushes.
The Cellophane Flowers’ complementary interplay evidently sparks from the palpable personal chemistry of four people finding their voices, or instruments, whilst having the time of their lives. The band’s synergic powers peak gloriously on ‘Rock n Roll’, an absolute triumph of a track which begins with a tribal echoing of drums that sound like they might have been recorded in the world’s biggest bathroom before leading into a brief Dylan-esque harmonica whine which slips dream-like into assured vocals, ridden with teenage angst and loneliness, over care-free distorted guitar, offering the kind of casual combinations that make you want to fall into a bed of fluffed pillows with your favourite bottle of whisky and a slow burning cigar.
Like the very best of post-punk guitar-pop, the finest songs on ‘Staring At The World’ are short and sweet, seldom venturing over five minutes, building up in gradual layers to an orgasmic sound-crunch crescendo of a chorus which leaves you restlessly begging for more. The one track to break this mould, the penultimate ‘Lucky Day’, is the longest on the album by far, but is wisely followed by the shortest and sweetest of them all, ‘In A Hole’, in which Corradini continually laments the situational title through haunting echoes, the delicate acoustic guitar plucking at her heartstrings for a mere two minutes, evocatively recalling the stripped down simplicity of Noah & The Whale. This last track on the album leaves the band in anything but the proverbial hole, fittingly signing off a splendid summer soundtrack to winter.
The Cellophane Flowers are a real rarity; a well manufactured band managing to produce driving-pop that actually goes somewhere. ‘Staring At The World’ is an album of ideas, an exciting glimpse into the future of a fresh-faced four-piece full of chart potential, and a fitting addition to the explosion of magical music coming out of the London scene. Despite the obvious influence, The Cellophane Flowers are no pretenders. They’re the real deal.
Make no mistake about it, these guys are good, very good.