Harper Lee - Go Back To Bed

matcd009  /  February 2001
Harper Lee - Go Back To Bed
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Harper Lee - Go Back To Bed

matcd009  /  February 2001

Unquestionably brilliant debut album from Brighton, England duo featuring Keris Howard (Brighter, Hal, Trembling Blue Stars) on vocals and guitar, and Laura Bridge (Hood, Kicker) on guitar, keyboards, and drums. Building on the strength of highly praised singles "Dry Land" and "Bug" and a bit of exposure from the John Peel show, Harper Lee present ten soon-to-be-classic tracks of melancholy pop with beautifully layered keyboards and guitars plus heartbreakingly earnest lyrics.

  1. Seem So Right
  2. Doing Nothing
  3. Dry Land
  4. Only Connect
  5. Deep Dark Ocean
  6. Brooklyn Bridge
  7. Bug
  8. Clifton Street Passage
  9. Your Life
  10. Low


"brighter are back, with swearing. Memo to all other bands - give up now" - tryhappiness, last year.that still applies. after crawling around london for some weeks we have finally managed to get our hands on the holy grail - the debut album by keris and laura, in its graffiti sleeve headed with the words "urban guerrilla tactic". who do they think they are ? comet gain ?no, becomes evident from the opening moments of the effortlessly perfect "seem so right", which after a few seconds of teasing breaks out into the trademark brighter guitar picking we so know and love, two and a half minutes on a single four-bar axis. fey pop in a sparkling new order-stlyee, and, like the violin-driven "doing nothing" which follows it, over far too quickly. while "deep dark ocean" (a happy marriage of two brighter songs' guitarlines, namely "christmas" and "around the world in 80 days"), is straight outta the old-skool keris howard textbook.the singles "dry land" and "bug" are both here too: prime slices of self-sorrow and (of course) amongst the highlights. the studied pop of "only connect", which at one time i seem to remember was destined to be the title track, is the obvious (so far) missed single opportunity, with its repeated, optimistic-sounding guitar motif over a strumming pattern reminiscent of the likes of the post-"laurel" era cuts "poppy day" and "hope springs eternal". glorious.the other tunes i would isolate are the fantastic, bitter "brooklyn bridge" - this time resplendent in a guitar line less than a million miles from the mary chain's "darklands" - and "your life", which consists of a single repeated four bar musical phrase, overlaid by prominent bass and tranches of guitar. in these moments "go back to bed" more closely echoes the final brighter EP and their subsequent Hal incarnation; elsewhere, the plucked chords and keyboard bells are closer in tone to some of the stuff on sarah. lyrically, there are (apart from the swearing) few progressions from days of yore... although the dual meanings in songs (political / emotional, sexual / political) continue the fantastic tradition of sweetly poisonous polemics "tinsel heart", "hope springs" and "election day". the closing song is "low", which surrounds keris' voice with the drum rhythm off the mary chain's "just like honey" and, more disturbingly, a very cheap, overpowering synth line which recalls the cure, "pornography" era, or perhaps new order's fledgling "movement". Enough guitars come in at the end to rescue affairs, but it's a close run thing. i'm also not too sure about "clifton street passage" which sounds a bit like it should be a cover of an american grunge-folk song, except for the fact it has brighter guitar on it. really, there's not too much more i can say save that this record is everything you would expect, and in this context that is the atlantic away from being a criticism. keris is older and a little unhappier, but the songs are still a perfect escape from the blur of the city and a perfect tonic for those cosy romantic evenings, one on one with your sound system. there is an "eighties" subtext throughout - those of us who have seen brighter's live take on depeche mode's "i just can't get enough" will understand this - but this album is a long way from the kitsch post-80s stylings of left-field luminaries like figurine, laptop, barcelona or my favorite. this is one of the few remotely recent albums that might just find its way into my all time list, only challenged in the last decade by the more coherent wholes of "her handwriting" and perhaps east river pipe's "mel". so. no hype, no remixes, no capital letters. but if you can find it, please buy it.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
Harper Lee is Keris Howard from Brighter and Trembling Blue Stars and Laura Bridge from Hood playing tunes that would not sound out of place on Sarah Records circa 1989. Not too surprising considering the background of the duo. Go Back to Bed is a record that sounds as if its creators are too sad to even get out of bed in the first place: the tempos are slow as molasses, the arrangements lush and full with lots of gloomy synth strings and sadly strummed guitars, Howard's vocals are melancholy as can be, and the lyrics are about love mostly lost and general sadness. Standout songs are "Doing Nothing," which has an almost perky feel with ringing bells and a loping beat; "Only Connect," which has beautiful intertwining Felt-like guitar lines; and "Clifton Street Passage," which recalls the quiet, desperate beauty of a Field Mice ballad. Go Back to Bed is a lovely and nostalgic record that indie pop fans should seek out; listening to it is like taking a time-machine trip back to the glory days of Sarah.   --All Music Guide
Let's face it: The farther north you live, the more winter sucks. Besides freezing your nose off every time you step outside and having to fiddle with jackets, gloves and hats on a daily basis, there's the hassle of driving on icy roads, scraping frost off your windshield and putting up with those dreary, sunless days. It's not even Halloween, and the inevitable descent into winter's already cause for dismay. But there's one small joy all those lucky folks in warm climates never experience: the snow day. Those rare days when you awake to see another overcast and bitter day outside, only to realize you're snow bound. All plans are off. Work, school, travel, heck, even housework, is scuppered to enjoy a day free from any plans, responsibilities or, for the most part, reality. It's great -- unless you live alone, and you're snowed in by yourself: Suddenly you're torn between the bliss of temporarily casting off responsibilities and longing to be able to get across town to see your lover. Harper Lee's Go Back to Bed, reissued from Matinee's original 2001 pressing of the album, is like one of those lonely snow days: part pure bliss, part melancholy. The act, which features Brighter's Keris Howard, doesn't stray far from its Sarah Records roots, and, really, that's perfectly OK. "Deep Dark Ocean" catches Howard in the middle of a comfortably melancholy vocal as violin and keyboards pipe in to take the bite of an already wispy guitar. "Dry Land" goes more atmospheric, with keyboards and home-recorded ambiance dominating the band's direction. "Seem So Right" and "Only Connect" retreat into those worlds of rainy-day melodies and sanguine dynamics that, years after bedroom pop's heyday, have become such a significant part of the indie-pop genome it's hard to separate them. If Go Back to Bed feels like a real bummer of an album, you're not paying attention. Howard and collaborator Laura Bridge are at home when they're steeped in downhearted melodies, but, as with Harper Lee's later albums, Go Back to Bed sees its melodies triumphing over its loneliness -- but only a by a little. There's something special about a band that can so seamlessly marry such sadness with high-powered melodies. Three cheers for Matinee for reviving this title.   --Aversion.com
On the inside is printed "phone in sick ... go back to bed", and that sounds like a great idea. Though not quite as lethargic as the title may suggest, this record is still pretty mellow. Of course, this is the new band of Keris Howard, ex-Brighter - the best melancholic band ever. This is ten songs of bright jangly guitars playing simple melodies and soft male vocals; very similar to the Velvet Underground, early R.E.M., and of course Brighter. The record alternates between real drums, programmed drums, and no drums, and also includes bells and a violin, as well. Ten songs in total, including the A-sides to the first two singles ("Dry Land" & "Bug"). The final track, "Low", is a bit different, reminding me of the Pet Shop Boys. MTQ=10/10   --IndiePages
I've always wondered why so many groups are so insistent upon expressing disappointment and disillusionment via screams and dense layers of distortion. The songs on Harper Lee's Go Back to Bed simply float: They are devoid of all audible aggression. And though subdued, the songs are able to express frustration, anger, loss, and all those other omnipresent, semi-pleasant emotions, and to express them in a more realistic light than could ever be achieved by groups who try to frighten a feeling out of existence. The standouts on the album are "Dry Land" ("Is this all I have to give? Is this all the sum of all these years, still waiting here for something I cannot hold or define") and "Brooklyn Bride" ("How about spending some time together without it feeling like I'm twisting your arm"). If you like Low, but are looking for something less abstract and more blatantly heart-on-the-sleeve, then Go Back to Bed is definitely an album you should track down.   --Milk Magazine
Harper Lee’s debut album is what is proverbially known as a “grower” .At first listen it may seem simply like another batch of angst ridden songs written by and for dressing gown wearing, cold baked bean eating depressives; but you’d be completely wrong if you thought this. In fact, it would be totally dismissive to describe Harper Lee in such throwaway terms as “depressing”, which is how I imagine many philistines will automatically stereotype them. Ahem. I’d be lying, however, if I said it didn’t sometimes veer towards the bleak end of melancholic but the songs appear to have a certain sincerity which makes them highly endearing. For a stock reference however, Harper Lee are a little like Belle and Sebastian – but with swearing. The songs themselves are based around seemingly simple structures, where Keris Howard's’ vocals are at the fore. His voice is very expressive, despite him not being a natural singer, and makes you want to envelop him in a big bear hug. For example, “Clifton Street Passage” is a bit of a tearjerker, as Keris recites a tale of what sounds like unrequited love. Relationships seem to be at the centre of the subject matter of “Go back to bed”, conveying emotion without talking the easy option of becoming clichéd or superficial, and making for an earnest album which, such is its frankness, that at times you feel as if you shouldn’t be listening to it. Harper Lee, despite there being only two of them, certainly utilise the basic keyboard/drums/ guitars set up to full effect. The simplicity yet delicacy of the structures help to reinforce Keris’s vocals while preventing the whole affair becoming too intense – particularly so on “Dry Land” which builds to a beautiful crescendo. “Deep dark Ocean” sees Harper Lee begin to enter the Spiritualised territory of “Ladies and Gentlemen…”, with strings that gradually build and envelop the desolate sounding vocals of Keris as he sings with characteristic honesty “So tell me who do I turn to now/…so tell me what do I do without you…” This flows nicely into “Brooklyn Bridge” which at least sounds more positive and sees what I’m interpreting as a little bit of dark humour creeping in with Keris singing “a waste of fucking energy” with delightful indifference. The album is brought to an end with “Low” which is unlike the other songs as it has an almost eighties sounding synthetic drum beat. Again, in order to prevent the song slipping away into the land of the dirge, the instruments build up gradually, reinforcing the mantra like lyrics such as “And if you’re feeling low, how low can you go…come with me, come with me…” which are emphasised to great effect by Keris’s elongated vowels, and rounds off the album, an exercise in the beauty of simplicity and honesty, nicely.   --Pennyblack Magazine
Looking into my crystal ball I find I am able to, when aligning the plates in my head just right, softly focus on the pictures of tense moments in the studio as Harper Lee (Keris and Laura) are recording this wondrously perfect and lovely record. The first scene seems to show Keris coming in with the brightest most hopeful face with a new song he has just composed, suddenly my vision dissipates only to return moments later and as this next scene materializes Keris is seen confidently playing his new song for Laura, the song is magical, and soon after he is done he looks hopefully towards her and he can see her lips begin to turn down and he cries out "Christ! another sissy pop classic?" and Laura nods epathetically. Keris then blurts out, "I am cursed, all I can write is beautiful, sad and affecting music, I may as well give it all up!", and just then he smashes his guitar (the eighth he has destroyed this week) and fade out. Oh but, if I can trust my visions, he will be back again tomorrow with more lovely tunes. All to our, we the listener's, benefit. And continuing, he actually appears to remedy his particular affliction with the odd inclusion of several uses of foul language which don't really detract from the sissy factor very much at all as I imagine they had hoped they would. Perhaps he was looking for a Parental Advisory label to be affixed to the front in order to boost sales, but I can't take him seriously when he sings 'waste of "f#*king time', ha. Brighter were, metaphorically, the little brother of the Field Mice while they were on Sarah, three perfect singles, a couple flexis a beautiful 10" and 'Laurel' a dossier that is enough to make any grown-up kid cry and now here we have Harper Lee or should I say Brighter II. Keris has a pretty distinct voice but there is very little effort made here to distance Keris from his past, his project previous to this HAL incoroprated dance elements which turned his songs, essentially, to Brighter songs with beats and yet here he does not even make the effort to blur the similarities between these songs and Brighter's efforts. Again, all the better I say. For shall we, for no apparent reason, compare this record to, say, the recently released record by the Clientele, they are not all that similar except for the limited musical palet of each band, but what is immediately obvious is that Keris has been at this longer than the Clientele because he has mastery of all of his musical faculties. This being, essentially, a Brighter record with a broader range of emotional purity (is that a contrary statement?), Keris is at a point similar to Trembling Blue Stars where he has confidence enough to make everything he touches romantic and inspiring. The music is soft pop, basic and warm, a nice added infusion of atmosphere is provided with the use of stirring keyboards. The lyrics are all pastoral poetry and longing. It is absolutely wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!   --Twee Kitten
Borrowing a name from the celebrated author of "To Kill A Mockingbird", Harper Lee captures the sort of fractured innocence that characterizes that novel's protagonist. The songs here are slow, guitar-based pop in a league with Trembling Blue Stars and Field Mice. Harper Lee crafts chilling mood pieces ("Doing Nothing") and stirring, strummy, Sundays-ish ballads ("Only Connect"). Though the music is too simple to reward careful listening, it perfectly communicates the feeling of loss and heartbreak, and is sure to resonate with fans of dour British pop.   --Shredding Paper
Harper Lee are Keris from Brighter/Hal and Laura from Kicker. The Kicker connections aren't obvious when you listen to the music, but the Brighter connections definitely are. Following two 7"s reviewed in previous issues, Harper Lee have released a CDEP Train Not Stopping and an album Go Back To Bed. The Sea Gently Lifting (from the EP) is one of the most Brighter-ish songs, and Dry Land (from the album, previously released as a single) is also very Brighter, but with sweary lyrics. Some other tracks aren't identical to Brighter but contain Brighter-ish elements, for example Doing Nothing (from the album) which is very sombre and has Brighter-like guitar playing, but there's a violin in it, which I don't recall Brighter ever using. The violin, by the way, is courtesy of Jill Drew, who if I'm not mistaken is also from Kicker. Violin also appears in Deep Dark Ocean, which other than the violin, sounds identical to Brighter. Brighter fans would be foolish to miss this melancholic jangly indiepop.   --Aquamarine
Imaginad que los Red House Painters hayan decidido dar 2 ó 3r.p.m más a su habitual desolación sonora. La tristeza áspera de Mark Mokelez & co. se convertiría en dulce melancolía. Al escuchar "Seen so right", el tema que abre "Go back to bed", flamante debut de este duo de Brighton formado por Keris Howard (Brighter, Trembling Blue Stars) y Laura Bridge (Hood), uno puede comprobar ese proceso materializado con pasmosa precisión y quedarse boquiabierto.. La primera vez que la escuché, lo supe perfectamente: me iba a enamorar perdidamente de este grupo. Enamorarse sí, pero no de la manera arrebatadora y vertiginosa, erótica y pasional que te pueden producir artistas como PJ Harvey, sino un amor digamos más familiar, el que terminas sintiendo por tu mejor amiga, el que al final (siempre, aunque al principio puede que pensemos que no) deriva en cariño. Harper Lee encajaban en mi molde preestablecido de antemano: un puñado de belleza, melancolía y languidez desperdigada por 10 canciones absolutamente fascinantes y que, ummm!, me recordaban a algo. Sí, como si ella se pareciese a Jean Seberg. La única diferencia, en esta ocasión, es que no encontraba la metáfora perfecta para encerrarlos en un juego de palabras, quizá por haberlas agotado completamente jugando a ser poeta con los Trembling Blue Stars. Sí, este disco suena a todo eso que merodea en tu mente: a la delicadeza de Sarah records, a esas guitarras esculpiendo acordes y arpegios de cristal, a esos telones épicos y evanescentes herederos de indiscriminadas escuchas adolescentes del "Disintigration", al tacto mágico de ese indie-pop apocado y desvalido que se adereza de guitarras acústicas y eventuales cajas de ritmo, a romanticismo, sensibilidad y puro amor a la melodía por encima de todo, a todas esas cosas que hacen que adoremos tanto a The Cure, Field Mice o los Sea Urchins. Aquí hay esas canciones enormes y emotivas que remiten al mejor pop ochentero pero, al igual que sucedía de los primeros Ivy o The Sundays, se revelan completamente atemporales y absolutamente envaucadoras. Pero tampoco me gusta decir estas cosas: discos asi no se justifican, simplemente se aman. ¿Ejemplos? "Low", "Bug", "Clifton street passange", "Dry land" ... ¡No!, es tan injusto e imposible destacar una sobre otra como contestar a la pregunta de cuál es la mejor canción de "Un soplo en el corazón". Mejor hazte con el y no dejes que te lo cuenten. " Si tu sientes amor / ven conmigo" dicen en la canción que cierra el disco. Tras darle mas y mas vueltas, sigo siendo incapaz de encontrar una mejor invitación con la que compartir con vosotros esta auténtica joya pop.   --Canciones Huerfanas
När du lyssnar på pop skall du knyta näven i fickan. När popbandet spelar skall musiken, genom hög volym och intensivt utspel, nå ända fram till din bleka lekamen - musiken skall krypa in under din hud, nå ditt känsliga hjärta och förlösa all den ångest du har dämt upp genom åren för att du är, och alltid har varit, en förlorare, till dans och kravaller. Så går det till när vi lyssnar på pop. Men det är lika bra att erkänna det direkt - jag har tabubelagda preferenser. Den senaste tiden har jag lyssnat en del på musik som når max en meter ut ur högtalarna innan den tvekar och bestämmer sig för att istället tyna bort bland molekylerna i rummet. Harper Lee är en hyfsat ny grupp som gör sådan pop som aldrig någonsin når mer än halvvägs. Det är nästan omöjligt att skilja de olika låtarna från varandra trots att jag gärna lyssnar hela eftermiddagar i sträck på "Train Not Stopping EP" och fullängdsskivan "Go Back To Bed". Vid ett blindtest skulle jag aldrig kunna avgöra ens vilken av skivorna jag lyssnar på. Brighton-duon Harper Lee är i allra högsta grad typisk för den amerikanska etiketten Matinée. Sett till utanpåverket är Matinée en mycket trevlig etikett med fina omslag och en stilmässig konsekvens och tydlighet, men tyvärr har innehållet alltför ofta valts genom sneglande i indiepopens adelskalender. Om man, när man startar ett skivbolag, utgår från idén om att indiepopens aristokrati är för evigt meriterad att släppa skivor borde man hamna ganska nära Matinée. Laura Bridge var tidigare med på ett hörn i Boyracer. Keris Howard var tidigare med i Brighter. Båda dessa band gav ut skivor på mytomspunna Sarah Records. Detta faktum gör automatiskt deras nya projekt hett för en skivetikett som släpper skivor med brittiska pubrockband som låter som Grymlings enbart för att de har medlemmar från anrika Razorcuts, Television Personalities och Heavenly i sättningen. Givetvis. Men nöjet med Harper Lee ligger knappast i att leta legendariska namn på konvolut och I pressreleaser, utan i den lätt förgängliga gitarrpopen. Jag har verkligen lyssnat mycket på Harper Lee. Eller rättare sagt - jag har verkligen spelat Harper Lees musik ofta. Deras skivor innehåller någonting i popsammanhang så tabubelagt som funktionell musik som gör sig bäst i bakgrunden på halvlåg volym när jag sitter vid datorn eller när jag ligger ner på soffan och läser en bok. Det verkar som att Harper Lees musik har drabbats av kronisk melankoli, och mest mumlar och inte lyckas göra något väsen av sig även fastän den egentligen kanske vill. Musik som ett fungerande substitut till tystnad. Det är fascinerande på sitt sätt.   --Twisterella
Fjärde spåret från en av årets än så länge bästa tråkpopskivor. Keris Howard följer fortfarande ingredienslistan från sin förra grupp Brighter. Han spelar tråkig musik, så otroligt tråkig. Om inte lyssnaren sitter i beredskap med två kannor kaffe lär ögonlocken bli lika tunga som tankarna Keris lämnar ut under skivans gång. Men Harper Lee - likt Trembling Blue Stars - fungerar ungefär som en långfilm av Stanley Kubrick: väldigt långrandigt men samtidigt så otroligt mycket smartare och snyggare än det mesta. "Only Connect" lär vinna priset för årets snyggaste gitarrslingor. De är ungefär lika njutbara som dimensionsfärden i "2001: Ett rymdäventyr".   --Bomben