In the absence of a full-flown Belle & Sebastian album in 2018, the return of Brooklyn's The Essex Green with Hardly Electronic their first record for twelve years, will more than do. Because The Essex Green have a very similar vibe and driving set of principles as B&S Because they love Pop Music, not necessarily in the way that Rihanna and Lady Gaga understand it, more in the sense that Burt Bacharach, The Monkees, The Mamas & the Papas, Nancy & Lee, The Free Design, The Partridge Family and The New Seekers did back in the day.
I kind of incline to that way of thinking myself and frankly Hardly Electronic is a quite gorgeous sounding Pop Record, riding on the wave of Sixties and early Seventies harmonies and happy hormones, dragging those of a certain age back to golden memories of youth, your first encounters with Pop music, children's television and Primary School crushes.
The retro qualities of the record are apparent from the album sleeve with a shirtless youth facing down the camera lens over the bars of his chopper with his mother, (presumably) in the background, under a washing line of decidedly seventies looking clothes. this is unashamedly a trip back to all our yester-years, and the record certainly cast its spell on me taking me back to when I was ten, sitting with my mother in our living room listening to her Seekers and Carpenters records with her.
At fourteen tracks, the CD version is probably a mite longer than it need to be. Now vinyl is back in vogue there's no real need for an album like this to have more than twelve tracks. In fact the vinyl version sensibly only has ten. Perhaps the band were overflowing with ideas that they wanted released in one form or other. This minor quibble aside, I'm deeply taken in almost every respect with Hardly Electronic. Mostly because it made me feel like I was a child again. Honest! Such are the utterly magical qualities of music.
More and more bands specialize in this kind of bittersweet reverie nowadays. Papernut Cambridge, The Clientele, B&S, Saint Etienne and so on and so forth. The Essex Green are up with the very best of them, these songs have such golden qualities that they give you the sense that they've always existed and are blaring out from you from your seventies transistor on Radio 1's Paul Burnett show between Helen Reddy and ELO accompanied by garish jingles and cheesy DJ banter.
So a record that only needed one spin to utterly win me over. I only hope that it isn't twelve years before The Essex Green make their way back to Record Shop racks with new product. They're far too talented to be away for so long again. In the meantime, I'm just thankful that Hardly Electronic exists. It's unassuming, nostalgic, Pop genius!