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Fast Trains And Telegraph Wires

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Album Review

Since their formation in 1996, Robert Wratten's Trembling Blue Stars carried on the fine work he had been doing in the Field Mice and Northern Picture Library, and produced a long string of very good, very sad records. Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires is the last album Wratten will release under the TBS name and it serves as a fitting end to the band. All the elements that made them a go-to band for melancholy indie pop fans are here, from Wratten’s ache of a voice to the tenderly fragile melodies to the lyrics that sound like they were written in a tear-stained notebook. The group’s half synth pop, half indie pop sound can seem mopey and a little precious to some, but if you connect with it, you’ll realize that the band makes some of the saddest and most beautiful music in the world. Like their most recent album, Last Holy Writer, the album has a more organic feel than the group’s earlier work, with acoustic guitars, old synths, and vocal harmonies mixed in with the drum machines and programming. Wratten’s top-notch band of mates — including Keris Howard (of Brighter fame) and Beth Arzy (of Aberdeen) — adds a live band feel to the proceedings, and Arzy’s vocals are again a highlight. Her lovely backing vocals give the album a shimmering warmth and her lead on the staggeringly slow and autumnal "Half-Light" is beautiful. Indie legend Cath Carroll sings lead, quite nicely, on "The Imperfection of Memory," too. Really though, it’s Wratten’s show and if you’ve been on board with him in the past, you’ll be thrilled by the quality of this album. There are songs like the epic-feeling "In Arrivals," the jangling near-rocker "My Face for the World to See," and the chiming New Order-ish "Cold Colours" that rank with his best work, and plenty more that could break your heart with a phrase or minor chord. If this is indeed the last Trembling Blue Stars album, they leave on a very high, very melancholy note. [The album is paired with an EP, Cicely Tonight, Vol. 1, that explores the more experimental nature of Wratten’s sound, with many of the tracks being drifting and noisy soundscapes. The actual songs present are top-notch, though. The acoustic guitar-led cover of the Dream Academy’s "Not for Second Prize" is lovely and "The Lowest Arc," which brings back former bandmate/muse Anne Marie Barker-Davies to sing lead, is a classic Wratten heartbreaker with a swelling chorus that makes you feel good about feeling bad, which is a fitting encapsulation of the true nature of the band and its catalog.]


Formed: 1995 in Surrey, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Named in honor of a passage from Pauline Reage's infamous novel The Story of O, the melancholy Trembling Blue Stars heralded the return of singer/songwriter Robert Wratten, best known as the frontman of the British indie pop band the Field Mice. Ostensibly a solo project with significant input from producer Ian Catt, Trembling Blue Stars originally emerged in the wake of the dissolution of Northern Picture Library, the project Wratten mounted after the demise of the Field Mice with then-girlfriend...
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Fast Trains And Telegraph Wires, Trembling Blue Stars
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