Having grown up as a child of Britpop, it was to my delight when The Bluetones announced they would be playing locally in the late spring of 2000. When they announced the date, it was the same night as my school prom. There was only going to be one winner… After always enjoying them before (who didn’t like ‘Slight Return’ and the fat-suit footballers in the ‘Marblehead Johnson’ video?), I quickly became a fully paid-up member of the Blue Army, a loyal band of supporters who would follow the Tones around the country for the next decade. Along the way, the band must have hit most major cities (and towns) around the country, wowing everyone with a little charm and a lot of style. Now, after the group disbanded with a farewell tour in 2011, singer Mark Morriss releases his second solo album ‘A Flash of Darkness’.
The title track opens the record and its mixture of Western themes and a Mariachi-style beat instantly recalls the Bluetones ‘Unpainted Arizona’. With percussion at the forefront alongside some neatly sun ‘ba, ba, bas’, Mark shows his trademark self-awareness as he sings ‘That’s me up on the screen’ and the more worryingly, ‘That’s me they all accuse’. These personal observations play a key part throughout the album’s entire 45 minutes. On ‘Guilty Again’, a song that recalls the early moments of The Beautiful South, Mark states ‘You tried to show me good from bad’ while ‘Low Company’ has the line ‘Falling into low company, proved the making and breaking of me’. There is a more classic sound on ‘Consuela’, a song which appears to deal with leaving a loved one with no regrets, while also discussing being tied up in the boot of a car… Lots of keys and synths are also thrown into the mix alongside the acoustic strums.
‘It’s Hard to be Good all the Time’ finds Mark showcasing an unlikely – and highly seething – anger as he resolves to tell someone about the mess their actions have caused once they have left, with no intention of coming back. The pair of brilliantly titled songs ‘Life without F(r)iction’ and ‘This is the Lie (and that’s the Truth)’ both are full of Seinfeld-esque observations about life in general, with the former having a 60s pop sound in vogue with Arthur Lee’s Love, a band The Bluetones covered extensively in their live set. The latter is more despondent and has a psychedelic edge as Mark sings ‘This is the lie that I tell myself’ in an almost-hypnotic trance. With covers of The Shins’ ‘Pink Bullets’ and Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ also included, this album is clearly a labour of love for Mark Morriss and its this level of attention that makes it a great listen, not only for Bluetones fans, but anyone who loves good indie-pop.
‘A Flash of Darkness’ is released via Acid Jazz Records on 24 February 2014.