Robert Turnell: You Fellows Of All Souls

 

You Fellows Of All Souls

You Fellows Of All Souls

Robert Turnell’s uncle was a highly respected newspaper editor, working on a leading UK national dailypublication, and ‘you fellows of all souls’ was his traditional welcome to any newly qualified graduates who found themselves staffing the newsrooms under Francis (later Sir Francis) Boyd’s editorship. It’s easy to picture the nervous shuffling and mumbling that Boyd snr. was able to create amongst these unworldly 20-something new bugs, althought the fact that he was eventually knighted for his services to journalism suggests that he wasn’t really that bad a bloke, when you knew him a bit.

 

And there’s an unmistakeable air of academic pomp hanging over the 10 tracks on Robert (formerly of Don’s Mobile Barbers) Turnell’s multi-layered pop explorations, like so much glinting dust hanging over the shelves and tables of some gloomy antiquarian library. First track “Tower To Piano” opens with a sequence of vastly reverberating guitars and drums which are overlaid with a mesmeric, almost esoteric, string section: this quickly mellows into a relatively straightforward guitar ballad, similar in some respects to the work of Ian Broudie, although lacking Broudie’s incessant nervous twitch, his sense of claustrophobia. Next track “Salute To The Folly” put me in mind of the Radar Brothers, and I thought them a bit on the slow side, but some neatly handled slide guitar gives the song the added energy it requires.

One band whose influence is apparent throughout the entire album are quite definitely Blur, although it’s the querulously dark Blur that brought us “This Is A Low” rather than the mockney japesters who created “Charmless Man”. Several of the tracks here share similar chord sequences, a repetitive motif which brings Blur’s “The Universal” to mind on more than one occasion. What’s needed here is some sparky Britpop and a little less reverence for whatever it is Robert Turnell finds so mildly intimidating.  The jangling surf guitars of “It Was Very Awesome” clock in at a startlingly abbreviated 51 seconds, and it’s left to final track “Impact Decay And Reverberations” to provide the  neccesary moment of edgy experimentalism that this album really needs.

Robert Turnell certainly has a talent but is spreading himself a little too thinly here, and some of his most interesting ideas aren’t quite fully realised. I can only too easily picture him composing ceaselessly away,  like some modern day Bob Cratchit, while the stern countenance of his illustrious ancestor glares down upon his efforts from above the fireplace.

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