In times of strife, it can be of great comfort to close the curtains on the chaos happening outside and seek relief in the simplicity of the past.
Cue the entrance of John Myrtle’s debut record, Myrtle Soup (out this week via Sad Club Records). The ten tracks on the album play out like a dreamy antidote to the cynical, fretted post-punk that has reverberated around the dingy venues of London in recent years.
London-via-Birmingham songwriter Myrtle leans unashamedly into the pop music of the 1960s. Whether he is channelling the shaky romance of The Kinks on ‘How Can You Tell If You Love Her?’, or the surreal imagination of Sid Barrett on ‘Spider on The Wall’ – which considers the viewpoint of a (rather judgemental) arachnid in the room.
Myrtle is by no means the first artist in recent times to adopt the sounds of the past. The Lemon Twigs, Connan Mockasin and, more recently, Brighton’s Spang Sisters seep their music in a heavy dressing of nostalgia. Myrtle Soup, however, may be the only example from this pool which resists adding the caveat of knowing self-reference or sarcasm.
The album unfurls with a carefree spring in its step. From the punny title, to its wistful guitar ditties; this is the sound of hand-me-down corduroy trousers, tea & cake on a Sunday and sun-kissed home video recordings of summers gone by.
Even ‘Ballad Of The Rain’, one of Myrtle Soup’s more introspective cuts, may ring with the guitar tones of Nick Drake, but floats buoyantly upon Beach Boys-esque harmonies and jaunty organ chords.
It could be argued that Myrtle Soup invests a little too much on its energy on looking backwards and not enough on moving the conversation forwards. The album owes a sizeable debt to its influences, and occasionally the sound of yesteryear can verge on novelty. When evaluating this debut effort in our current climate however – with the music industry on its arse and the country politically and financially divided like never before – perhaps this happy-go-lucky foray to simpler times is the tonic that we are yearning for.
Myrtle Soup is slab of unpretentious sincerity when we need it the most. The sun is shining in London, children are playing in the street and you are the star of your very own life-affirming biopic. If the theme of summer 2021 is to be a longing for freedom, we can think of no LP that is more freeing than Myrtle Soup.