I don’t usually review albums but… this one gave me no choice.
When you release your first album, it’s got to hit the ground running. Life’s Bread not only runs, it kicks, punches and rips your heart out as it goes. QL take no prisoners with this album. They drag you in, rough you up a bit, and leave you wondering what happened as you limp out at the end. They tell the story of a life that has been real, ugly, hidden.
Eat the Pigs – bloody hell, what an opener. This had me po-going around the kitchen, sucking up the twisted metaphor of the big, bad wolf. Chiming piano cuts across solid rock riffs, lyrics that land awkwardly in sensitive ears made me question how sanitised much of our music has become. This track makes no attempt to be likeable and that makes it utterly loveable.
I will confess a personal attachment to the second track, Love Me Still. Sami-Jo wrote when I asked for a song to intro/outro my podcast, Who Killed the Sisterhood. This version of it builds and wells with an urgency then drops away like the ebb and flow of every friendship. I thought it was genius the first time I heard it, now I think it’s genius with knobs on.
Sleep Sweet rocks you like a toxic lover, hypnotic and dangerous. For all the loveliness of the song, there is something unpredictable that you can’t quite trust. This is what QL do so well: they beguile and deceive. It’s why I was stopped mid-conversation when I first heard them. I had to get up, walk away from my friends and see who was performing. I’ve never had that reaction to a band before.
The opening of Little reached into my gut and made me listen. And then, oh, the innocence of that child’s voice reciting a prayer: something bad is coming. This song foreshadows the loss of childhood and the catastrophic mistakes waiting for the adult. Yet, the child is still hiding inside the mess of a grown up. We can all relate to that, right?
And then the angry adult bursts out in Hunky Dory. My shoulders started twitching from the first drumbeat and the groove ripples over and over like breaking waves. I was catapulted back to the first punk song I ever heard. It has that swagger and it urges you to swagger along.
You Can Tell By People’s Eyes is so understated it takes the air out of the room. Rob’s voice holds Sami’s, like spoons cupped together in a nest of barbed wire. The traumas of childhood are there on the tarnished surface of the spoons but now there’s someone there, for the long haul.
Stripped back, the repeated keyboard phrases restrain the last track, Joyride. The lyrics lift you up above a life that is almost hopeful. Whispered words, Sami’s voice floating above Rob’s, this is fragment of light stretching into the future.
Déjà Vu slides and loops, the certainty of Rob’s soft tones and steady guitar riffs, holding Sami high above the song. I could feel the drag of repeated mistakes, the inevitability of it all. The exhausting sadness.
Waiting For You starts with the smallest moment of standing bare foot at the door, and builds, and builds, and builds to a moment of letting go. As the last note left the air, I had a sense of profound sadness. This wasn’t a happy ending: it was a truthful ending.
The production by Martin Lumsden is clever and unexpected. It doesn’t churn out banger after banger, it uses incongruous moments of light and shade to take you on a journey. Yes, a proper one. This is a tale of bad starts, damaged people, chance meetings, repeated mistakes, fixing broken souls. It would be all too easy to make this an angry or self-pitying album. It’s neither and it’s both. The smart, restrained choices that Martin makes allow QL to direct their energy exactly at the right spots, the ones that puncture your complacency and make you question what you’ve heard.
Exactly my kind of music.
Find Life’s Bread here https://quiveringlip.bandcamp.com/album/lifes-bread and Martin the Producer here https://martintheproducer.com/