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The Last Holy Writer

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Album Review

Truth be told, the Trembling Blue Stars routine was getting kind of stale by the release of Seven Autumn Flowers in 2004. With that album they crossed the line that divides reliable and predictable; no longer did the morose lyrics, melancholy vocals, minor chords and cheesy synths make a positive impression. Luckily for fans of the band, The Last Holy Writer is a comeback of sorts, certainly an improvement, and maybe even one of their finest records. How did they do it? It's hard to say because on the surface it seems like not much has changed sound or mood-wise. There's still a preponderance of downbeat lyrics and Bob Wratten hasn't suddenly traded in his mope for a smile, no fear of that anytime soon. The building blocks of their sound are mostly the same too. What makes a difference here is a boost in the overall energy level from unrelenting gloom to mostly sad, a slightly expanded sonic palette that makes room for field recordings and a wider range of drum sounds, and most importantly, some really good songs. Chief among them are the Beth Arzy-sung "Idyllwild" which, much like Helen Reddy on the last album, fairly bursts out of the speakers like sun through the clouds, "Darker, Colder, Slower," which has the kind dramatic shifts in dynamics and tone TBS Records need more of, the laid-back near-country rocker "The Tenth of Always," and the almost happy sounding "Say Goodbye to the Sea" (of course the words are devastatingly sad, but the drum program and the bells will have you smiling through the tears). The song that will really make the album worthwhile for Wratten fanatics is "November Starlings," an up-tempo 12-string jangle pop gem that is easily on par with the best of the Field Mice. The few songs that lag a bit are the exception on The Last Holy Writer and if you stick around to the end you're rewarded with the beautiful "A Statue to Wilde," which unspools epically over seven minutes of majestic melancholy. Between Arzy's wonderful vocal, the drums that call to mind Ride's "Dreams Burn Down" and the heartbreaking chorus, it's one of the best things the Blue Stars have committed to tape, and it's an excellent cap on an album good enough to win back any fans who handed in their badges after a couple of down records. The Trembling Blue Stars will never be thrilling, but at least they are back to being powerful and heartbreaking again.


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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The Last Holy Writer, Trembling Blue Stars
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