It’s been a long time coming but, finally, Olympians are releasing their debut album. From EPs to a Book Club-style set of releases and festivals to European tours, the band have been around the alternative scene for a while and have established themselves as a favourite with so many. Their askew pop songs have a dry sense of humour running through them and they’re even labelling ‘Reasons to Be Tearful’ as an ‘#OfficePop record. Cutting through the bullshit of modern life, the record is bursting with observations and a healthy dose of miserabilia that makes Larry David look like Chris Traeger.
Named after the surreal artist, ‘Rene Magritte’ opens the album with a wall of feedback and drone that then evolves into a more incidental piece driven by gentle guitar. As Dan Harvey sings about being holed up and how a variety of things go ‘not really lead to anywhere at all’. With short blasts of brass and deep, choral group vocals, it’s a perfect introduction to what to expect. Of course, the themes are all set painfully in the real world: ‘I ply an honest trade, safe from the cruel life, earning just enough to keep the bailiffs from my door’. The brilliantly named ‘Cinema Hotdog’ follows and with its Mimas-style tendencies, it’s a song that you’ll be keen to hear again and again. The mix of glockenspiel, mathy riffs and sadness combine to devastating effect. In unison, the band sing about ‘Something real, and fine, and broken, and rotten’’ before Dan offers up the confession ‘I cried over the sofa, stained the settee, wrecked my loafers. I tried calling you over but your battery’s dead and I’m so hopeless’.
Romance – or, more specifically, pining for someone – seems to be a central theme to ‘Rosa Lee’. With lyrics that are reminiscent of Rivers Cuomo and a soundtrack that would feel at home on a Sufjan Stevens album, Dan sings about waiting for a girl who cleaned his filthy sheets and put up with his lies before lamenting the fact that she now has a ‘mealy muscle man’ boyfriend who is most certainly a ‘fucking dick’. Especially as he’s pulled the singer up on ‘staring through the café windows’ and remarked how it’s ‘really freaking everybody out’. There’s more of a Tall Ships vibe on ‘Battery Neck’ with its stop-start guitars and thumping rhythm section. Edging into proggier territory, the song still retains Olympians’ dark edge: ‘Nostalgia’s a killer, Leave only your turds and teeth behind’. As the band chant ‘Hey old man’, Dan then tackles him more directly as he remarks with a sigh how ‘you look like you tired of this all first hand’.
‘Nestling, deep in 3-year financed furniture, hoping Men and Motors preview hour is still on’ are the opening words to ‘Shuffle Pops’ and this sense of hopelessness and desolation continues as the band go on to remark how ‘real life is long and unkind so learn nothing, watch DVDs, stay quiet’ before finally questioning ‘will all our tears and bad feelings cancel one another’s meanings out’. Driven by the huge guitar hooks and Michael Parkin’s pounding drums in the more built-up sections, it’s another song that touches on the mundane nature of human life. There’s a startlingly direct nature to ‘Smaller Shards’ which finds the band demanding to know ‘What’s going on? What made you feel so horrible? You’re shitfaced and won’t leave the flat’. A metaphor for picking up the pieces of a broken life, it surprisingly ends on a fairly positive note: ‘Carpets were cleaned and we vacuumed up the smaller shards, so take this one last chance’.
‘Secret Snares’ has a dream pop ambience mixed with quirkier melodies as Dan sings about the concept and true reality of life: ‘And it scares me to think, that being the lead character of a story doesn’t mean you’re the hero. You still end up old, flaccid and sad.’ There is some real passion as the album’s defining statement is delivered in rousing fashion: ‘Happiness that’s more that momentary’s impossible, when the reasons to be tearful stack up.’ The album’s closing song, ‘Presammàle’, appears to tackle the subject of despair and how maybe, just maybe, positivity is overrated: ‘Darkness, I look back fondly on our time. Things were much easier when it was only you and I’. Opening with chamber pop tones, once it reaches the halfway point and extra bass is added, there is even more emotional resonance, especially in the guitar-led climax which has elements of Spiritualized’s ‘Stop Your Crying’. Fittingly, there’s a harmonised singalong to finish the record: ‘History threatened to forget us but I laughed at the thought it had ever remembered’.
With plenty for fans of Super Furry Animals, Tangled Hair and TWIABP to enjoy, ‘Reasons to Be Tearful’ is a record full of melancholic moments, profound lyrics and hooks that get inside your head. It’s been worth the wait.
‘Reasons to Be Tearful’ is out via Barely Regal Records on 24 June. Pre-order your copy here.