Happy Endings begins with an odd, exasperated count-in, before the bombastic sound of an old school rhythm and blues band style intro: pulsating drums overwritten with piano flourishes, before hitting into the trumpet and synth-pad dominated verse of ‘Rescue Mission’. These drums may come as an auditory surprise for anyone’s who’s been following Crayola Lectern’s live show in recent years, where normally the trio of chaps we see on the inner sleeve are sat surrounded by keyboards and an array of percussive devices. Hailing from just along the coast in Worthing, Crayola Lectern is the brainchild of psychedelic family man Chris Anderson, backed by a number of musical friends. Alistair Strachan and Damo Waters, from the live show are bolstered on record with a few extra pairs of hands, notably including a couple of ex-Cardiacs in drummer Bob Leith and multi-instrumentalist Jon Poole. Anderson’s mastery of the keys has been further distilled in this weird and whimsical collection of songs, which lose nothing through being a little more focussed and succinct than on the debut album.
‘Rescue Mission’ really hits home for me in its final act, with the repeated refrain of, “there won’t be a rescue mission/Everybody’s thinking of themselves”. If you hadn’t yet read through the track-list to the parenthesis on the title track, or noticed the rather funereal woman’s portrait on the cover, this would be your clue to the real tone of this collection of songs. The album is melancholic and miserablist, but all that is tempered with the relished fun of unusual musical decisions and a self-aware wit. ‘Submarine’ has plenty of musical onomatopaeia, in that it sounds extremely wet. That’s both in the way that keyboard sounds plink and swell in the background supporting the main piano riff. Also the vocal itself is drowning in reverb, so far off in the distance it’s almost intangible here. Throughout the album Anderson often employs a peculiarly thin, strained falsetto, and often it is treated similarly to this. As an instrumental texture as much as it is there to convey the lyrics, which are wonderfully poetic at times.
Such is the variety and intricacy of the album, I find myself tempted to continue the review going track by track, telling you what to expect. Although I suspect that might ruin the fun to a certain extent. For although there’s a definite tendency towards melancholia, this isn’t one of those albums that just sits on its arse complaining about everything, ultimately boiling down to a protracted 45 minute sigh (and there are plenty of those out there). Happy Endings is remarkably fun affair, whose musically dense and complex moments are treated with the same weight and irreverence as its more jovial, playful ones.
It’s refreshing to hear an album so dominated with keyboards and brass, which are instruments that we often find relegated to supporting roles in rock and pop music. Here they’re at the front and when it’s brass leading the charge it seems to create more drama and tension, making things sound overblown and expansive – the full throttle of ‘Lux’ being a case in point. That’s not to say the guitar isn’t welcome when it shows up, such as the brilliant soloing at the end of ‘Lux’ and ‘Lingeron’, with their extended outros, or following some near-medieval sounding progression on ‘Giant Moon Up In The Sky’. This is an album which will continue to surprise on each repeated listen, as its cinematic gems unfurl before you, it’s hard not to get lost in the magical world it creates. This is a kind of musical escapism, and I’d encourage you all to book a ticket for the trip.