Album Review: One Cure For Man - 'Gods and Toys'.
Lancashire: Music and cultural hotbed. Land of a good pie. James Parkinson: Burnley based multi-instrumentalist/singer/producer. The core of One Cure For Man, Probably enjoys a good pie.
One Cure For Man as a band entity have lived two lives. Originally a 4-piece formed in Leicester in 2009, the band released a number of EPs while being led by 4 different singers before an amicable split in 2012. Thankfully for us, James kept the project going and released the debut album 'Serenade of the Damned' in 2013. The album was well received so we now have what has culminated into the second offering, 'Gods and Toys', with James now back in the familiar surroundings of his native, Burnley.
So, what of the album. At just over 42 minutes in length, spanning 11 songs, and the last track being the longest at 4.53, this album is an effervescent, radio-friendly package that I found difficult not to enjoy. What I like about this album having played it around a dozen times - in the car, on the laptop, through my home system - is that I don't want to turn it off. In fact, being honest, I get a bit annoyed in the car when I arrive at the place I am heading to and I haven't finished listening to it.
The album's approach is simple: listen to me, appreciate me and your world will be a better place for it. The opening track 'The Freedom' just dives straight on in there, makes no apology for itself and launches into a guitar-laden drama. Driven along by James' stirring vocal, the track bounds along and ends with what becomes a norm for the heavier tracks on the album - a wailing guitar that immediately has you grabbing for the nearest tennis racket. 'Europe is Close' simply marches on where the opening track finishes. A meaty drum beat and lovely bass number open the track before before the guitar sneaks into bed and joins the party. This, to me, is one of the more 'poppy' numbers on the album and it appeals - catchy guitar hook, lamenting vocal? Yup, you betcha. More please.
At this point you realise how good this band are (and a lot of that debt is owed to James) as the pace slows over the next couple of tracks. 'Sleep Prince' allows us to hear the intensity in James' voice as we climb inside his head and journey with him through his lyrics. This continues on 'The Lost' which is the standout slow track on the album. At no point is James' voice more melancholic and full of feeling. The gentle, stirring guitar has a touch of Fleetwood Mac about it and with this track already receiving BBC Radio airplay, it is not hard to understand why.
'Blood Rain (Heaven's Rust)' returns to that more familiar place - wonderful guitar play, solid drums and that now trademark voice - almost anthemic in it's quality. The album title track 'Gods and Toys' takes us back off at another tangent - this record does like to surprise - a beautiful, stirring track kept pulsing along by James' melodic acoustic guitar playing. Lyrically masterful, this is an utterly moving composition.
Jeremy Tennat (one of the lead singers in OCFM's former life) lends his vocal talents to '1000 Stars' which provide stark contrast to James' own as the track opens with a jangley guitar, taking you off to a place of festivals, dancing outside and sunshine. Then, just as you think you have a measure of this record, it switches to an entirely different place with 'Hazel'. A simply delightful and unexpected 3 minute instrumental sojourn which allows you and I to collect our thoughts and apply them to OCFM's music. The strings showcased by Ros Pilgrim are a revelation. Undoubtedly, an album highlight. You are then awoken from your musical daydream by 'Hold Me Back' which is somewhat of a shock, albeit not an unpleasant one, as the drums roll in. Again though, you can't help but be caught up in the track as the big room drums, catchy guitar and rolling melody sweep you along.
A touch of late Searchers about this one perhaps. 'Always There For You' is an atmospheric number that, for some reason that I can't work out, just doesn't sit right with the rest of the record. It is the only track that I don't care too much for. It opens well enough but then doesn't seem to grab you like it's predecessors before it - it plods along as opposed to being driven along if you will - even James' voice doesn't raise it from its slumber.
With a final flourish comes 'Song For Infinity'. A belting number (and the longest on the album) that perfectly end the record: a straight up catchy pop-rock tune which defiantly doesn't give a bag of spanners to what you think about it. For me, the best track on the album that would have no problems filling a dancefloor.
There will be people out there who will label this as 'just another pop-rock record' but, while it undoubtedly is, it is also a very good pop-rock record. This fact should not be overlooked. OCFM's line-up may have changed over the past 6 years but James' passion, which shines through in these 3-4 minute mini-symphony's, has to be admired and while it is not always perfect, where it is good, it is extremely good. For that alone, OCFM, I salute you for it.
Words of Dave Dingle
'Gods and Toys' will be released on Monday 12 October and is available for pre-order over at iTunes and Amazon.