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Album Review – Sulk: Graceless

Right now, everyone is back to obsessing over the 90s, nearly as much as they did at the time itself. Bands from the era such as Blur, The Stone Roses and Pulp are dusting off their Fred Perrys/baggy trousers/blazers and getting ready to hit the stage once more. The Britpop era – fights and all – might have ended, but the music created is too good not to be influencing today’s rising artists. Bands like Peace have already proved this year that you can release heavily 90s-inspired material and not be eaten alive for it.

Sulk also seem to have a big 90s-shaped space in their hearts and they’re filling it in using familiar swirling guitars and assertive drums. But, instead of pulling the London-based five-piece up on this, they deserve applause. ‘Diamonds In Ashes’ and singles ‘Flowers’ and ‘Wishes’ may be irresistible nods to The Stone Roses and the Madchester movement in terms of temperament, but somehow Sulk have just about managed to varnish Graceless in a gleaming coat of their own brand of gloss.

Quieter tracks ‘The Big Blue’ and ‘Back In Bloom’, as well as the denser ‘End Time’, show off fresher traits and cement Sulk as a band with direction; one with a lot more to give than mere Stone Roses wannabes. Though if Mani and Co. ever get stuck somewhere due to adverse weather or something and couldn’t make it to a show, Sulk would probably be able to step in and do a damn good job.

“Slip into the dream of the night, lights are low and skies they glow. It’s a special place for your mind, eyes will roll and sights unfold”, encourages lead vocalist Jon Sutcliffe on ‘Down’. His breathy tone and heady words being a bang on match for the playful music: moody and brimming with attitude, just like their band name. The snappy ‘If You Wonder’ is a prospective crowd favourite, too, thanks to its catchy refrain. “So if you wonder, I need to tell you now” – it just seems to have the power of mesmerizing anyone or anything in its path. As a whole, Graceless is a near-perfect balance between what was going down 20 years ago and what is being created and reinvented today.

- Hayley Fox



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