Long-time readers of this site will know how much love we have for itoldyouiwouldeatyou (in fact, we considered using that photo of a smiling Joey Ashworth when we briefly pondered giving ratings in our reviews). We’ve watched the band grow from Joey as a solo act playing in their hometown of Godalming and supporting The World is a Beautiful Place… through to triumphant shows with revolving line-ups at festivals like ArcTanGent. Now, we’re so excited the band are set to release their debut album ‘Oh Dearism‘ via our friends at Alcopop!, Failure by Design and Beth Shalom Records.
Split roughly into two halves, making it a concept record of sorts, the album finds Joey trying to work their way through a multitude of emotions that might not be their own before going on to accept life and society can be confusing and how anyone can feel lost and be in need of help at any given moment. Opener ‘Earl King, Whatever’ is full of church-sounding organs as harmonies as Joey asks you direct: ‘Would you come to the funeral? It’s just like a date except you’re alone and I don’t have much to say’ The guitars are turned up as Joey begins to open up about personal feelings from the past and how the state of their mental health and expectations to ‘fit in’ led to states of loneliness: ‘When you’re 13 and you’re yet to smoke weed and you’re grappling with your masculinity. Please leave me alone. I’m not a grown-up yet’; ‘Consequently I’m sleeping on my own with girls I barely know and boys that I barely know’.
There are a few moments on the record that feel like they could be fond and intentional references to Joey and guitarist Josh See’s old band Our Lost Infantry, especially in the melodies of ‘Gold Rush’ and the striking way Joey demands ‘Turn on the light, raise fist to sky’ and the line in ‘Greek Fire’ about ‘touching herself in my bed’. Recent single ‘Young American’ is full of powerful lyrics about anxiety (‘I was better when I was a baby. I only cried when I was tired or hungry’) amidst a combination of hooks that sounds somewhat akin to Cap’n Jazz jamming with Totorro. ‘Almost Zero’ opens with twinkly, twiddly guitar and features Funeral for a Friend-style backing-vocal screams as Sean Westall’s distinctive drumming style veers in different directions that back up the fluctuating states of mind in the lyrics: ‘I was lost but now I’m found’.
There’s a real poignancy in the opening words of ‘Gathering Things Together and Not Dividing Them’: ‘I’m inches from your face, you’re half a mile away, I could have walked it yesterday’. Joey follows this by evaluating past mistakes with regret and emotion: ‘I stayed at home, sat on the sofa, all alone. I act like all my friends are gone’. The stabbed synths hint at a change in pace and mood and after a dreamy interlude and the song finds Joey, Holly Readman and other members repeating the mantra of ‘Mother, be a mother, be a mother’ before a faltering finish. Named after a war hospital that hosted patients including Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen (who both contributed poems to the in-house magazine during their time there), ‘Craiglockhart’ opens in gentle style with swaying guitar and a military tint to the keyboards before building into more post-rock territory as Joey’s need for companionship becomes more apparent and delivery extra fervent: ‘If I can’t see you, it doesn’t mean you’re not there’.
The expertly crafted ‘Greek Fire’ is over eight minutes long and veers from a self-critique (‘Whatever it was, it gave me strength that evening to keep you laughing and keep me feeling safe’) drenched in atmosphere to danceable math rock and then to a waltz before a more experimental tone comes in that has the essence of a more emo yndi halda. It closes with harmonious cries of ‘I’m no boy’ which leads into ‘Goodbye to All That’. Now, this closing song is sure to be talked about a lot – and you know you’re in for a treat as soon as it opens with the Joey saying: ‘My name is Joey and you’re with me now’. Joey reads a bedtime-style story about a rabbit and a hare who love each other deeply (‘they never ever went to bed without first settling their arguments’) over intricate US emo-inspired guitars. Joey profoundly states how ‘happiness can be just as scary as sadness, because it’s far easier to lose’ and then heartbreakingly reveals how the rabbit and hare lose each other – although they always find comfort and solace in memories of each other’s faces (and other things – ‘there’s a stain on our duvet that I hope never washes away’). It’s an affectionate tale about how love is universal and although it’s a surprising end to the record, it’s full of charm and fits well.
itoldyouiwouldeatyou’s ‘Oh Dearism’ is a finely crafted and hugely important album about youth, society and trying to figure out your place in a very complex world. It’s an astonishing listen that will bring so many people together.