The Bluetones were (and still are) a very popular group, thirteen hit singles and three Top Ten albums can’t be denied. Riding high on a post Brit-pop tsunami, their debut album Expecting To Fly topped the UK album chart; the single Slight Return was only prevented from reaching the Number One spot by the helium hyped novelty record, Spaceman, by Babylon Zoo (remember them?). Mark Morriss (The Bluetones’ ‘boy next door’ lead singer) has recently signed to Acid Jazz Records, and has a solo album out to mark that fact.
A Flash Of Darkness, like much of The Bluetones’ material, captures a certain ‘Indi- Englishness’, it jangles with the minor guitars chords of the sixties songbook. But unlike the typically suburban whimsy of say Ray Davis of The Kinks, this album, although still musically ebullient, reflects and broods like a French novelist, more Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien than Waterloo Sunset, yet done so with a joy and understated aplomb that sounds refreshing and sprightly instead of tired or world weary; a difficult trick to pull off.
For instance, This Is The Lie (And That’s The Truth) in the wrong hands, could easily have become the theme song for a prozac doused middle-England, a lonely hearts sea shanty to self-delusion and denial; instead it is a stand out track on the album, an infectious, hypnotic and genuinely uplifting song that, expressively, has more in common with Pharrell William’s Happy than Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt. The song (as with the album as a whole) is peppered with a subtle humour that’s skilfully applied and sounds optimistic and upbeat.
Some tracks sound like The Bluetones (not surprising as the band worked on the record), songs like the quirky Space Cadet and the anthemic love song Consuela; these sound stylistically familiar and will no doubt be popular live and appease the loyal Bluetones fan base. Other numbers suggest that Mark Morriss has moved into the territory of the travelling troubadour, the folksy melodies of Donovan or Cat Stevens. Either way, A Flash Of Darkness shines with quiet brilliance.