Melodie Group - Updownaround

matcd022  /  December 2002
Melodie Group - Updownaround
cd   $10.00

digital   $8.00

other digital:   Apple Music     Amazon     Spotify

Melodie Group - Updownaround

matcd022  /  December 2002

Long awaited full length from the enigmatic Melodie Group, featuring the consummate songwriting skills of The Windmills vocalist and guitarist Roy Thirlwall. Previous releases have enjoyed some of the highest praise lofted at a Matinée artist, including comparisons to Grant McLennan and Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens, as well as Echo and the Bunnymen, East Village and Felt. This 10-track album features relaxed, melodic popsongs that achieve a rare mixture of melancholy and catchiness. Lusciously paced, with gorgeous vocals delivered in the most dulcet of tones, "Updownaround" is a triumph for Thirlwall's already esteemed catalogue and a testament to the brilliance of his creativity.

  1. Everybody Loves You
  2. Hold
  3. Bathtub Full of Water
  4. When Love Comes Along
  5. Xiao
  6. Hairdresser in the Sky
  7. Inner Space 1971
  8. I Do Not Not Love You
  9. Butterfly:Tart
  10. Summerness


Melodieman Roy Thirlwall sings and plays guitar in doleful English janglers The Windmills. As he does in The Windmills, Roy keeps things downcast-but-hopeful/yearning-but-pragmatic on his 10-track screed. The label's press-sheet is right, this stuff is reminiscent of The Go-Betweens, Lloyd Cole and, for those familiar with them, East Village - but none of those bands can boast a lyric like "In the hot, hateful summer/I'm a loser, I need a doctor," as Roy intones on the brooding "Inner Space 1971." You don't get enough people saying that sort of thing in indiepop. Take note, kids.   --The Big Takeover Magazine
His name is....his name is....his name is....Roy Thirlwall. Funky he is not. A genius he most certainly is. Not only does Roy play in The Windmills, he is also the Melodie Group, and both of these bands, you should know by now are outrageously good. Updownaround, Melodie Group's second long player is the sort of record any sort of serious fan wishes Morrissey would make, instead of pissing about with those rockabilly chancers. 'Hold' is the first outstanding track. Based around the simplest of guitar parts and a rather eerie keyboard, Roy croons on be touched up. Clear Morrissey territory. 'Summerness' from an earlier ep is also included here, and sounds as fresh and lovely as it did last year. Simplicity is what counts in both of these records. Thirwall has that kind of plaintive voice that suits these kind of fragile yet nagging soundscapes, and what's the more the lyrics make the spaces in the songs seem not only right, but essential. You really want to know my favourite track? I couldn't tell you. 'I Do Not Not Love You' is a pure pop nugget, but I'm not sure if I prefer that or something as warm and intimate as 'Bathtub Full of Water'. Each is a simple love song. And each is magical. Can you tell I'm astounded? Good.   --Tasty
"Hold my hand/keep me safe and warm/kill the enemy/don't let him bury me," Roy Thirlwall sings at one point during the Melodie Group's Updownaround, epitomizing the album's tone of combined longing and insecurity. He's always looking for a comforting touch, always desiring someone or something, but he's simultaneously always coming face to face with heartbreak and loss. Yet he meets that dark side with a smirk and a dry laugh more often than tears, not to mention with the tools of an expert songsmith: melody, harmony, mood and the capacity to turn a perfect phrase. While Thirlwall's other band The Windmills sets sadness against uptempo pop hooks, The Melodie Group uses slow, tuneful guitars and bass plus beats, synth and other subtle flourishes. The atmosphere is just right for explorations of emotional hurt and resignations to eternal sadness. Updownaround has a wonderful feel to it, reminiscent of a whole stream of great pop gems that dove into sadness with style. The album's title and rollercoaster cover photo seem like a gentle joke about the emotional ups and downs that Thirlwall sings about, yet throughout the downs are reveled in more than the ups. "You arrive with a bandage for my head/but I don't ever want to be repaired," he sings at one point. He's "glad to be unhappy," as Rodgers and Hart once wrote, sitting alone with his melancholy and feeling Ok about it. In fact, the one straight-ahead love song on the album, a 1960s cover called "When Loves Come Along," is hard to take sincerely in the context. It's tough not to think, "Is this for real?" as he matter-of-factly describes the arrival of perfect love. Yet when the lack of love and happiness are on your mind this much, there's always a glint of hope in everything; it's inevitable. The Melodie Group hasn't given up on love, though they're not expecting its arrival anytime soon, either.   --Erasing Clouds
Roy Thirlwall has one of the most aloof singing voices I've ever heard. His singing fits the music, though; if you're singing songs of melancholy, it probably wouldn't hurt to actually have a convincing voice. Unlike, say, Calvin Johnson's bad-but-cute style, or Stephin Merritt's "I'm smart and I know it and my words are more important anyway" attitude, Thirlwall's got a "I'm smart and sassy, dig it, I'm DETATCHED" thing going on here. As for Updownaround, it's not bad, either. I'll admit that it took me a listen or two to really get used to his singing, but after that inital thaw, I totally fell for updownaround. And though his voice may be similar throughout, the music itself is actually quite varied. With his guitar and beatbox and whatever else he may have around him at the time, Thirlwall produces a full, lush sound. Once you warm up to his voice, then you'll find the prize of warm, glowing pop music. For the most part, the music on Updownaround is downbeat, kind of dour, a little bit melancholy, and possessing a wit as dry as the martini you drank last night. Sure, at times he sounds a lot like Bob Wratten or Keris from Harper Lee, but that's not a bad thing! When he gets a little bit funky and a tad experimental is when he's at his best; "Xiao" is my favorite; it starts off slow, but then builds into an odd electronic casiotone passage, and then returns to the original sound. Just a nice little surprise in the middle for you! Other great moments on Updownaround include the positive by way of being a double negative lovesong "I Do Not Not Love You," the Morrissey-ish "Butterfly:Tart," and the upbeat tearjerker "Hold." An interesting, intelligent diversion of pop is what Updownaround ultimatly is, even if it's not totally memorable. At times, I feel like maybe Melodie Group is unfairly restrained by being a one-man project. These songs are all great, but a band might be able to add a greater depth to them. Other than that, no real complaints, and Updownaround is a fine debut album from a proven talent.   --Mundane Sounds
Roy Thirlwall, aka Melodiegroup, deserves high praise for having come up with ten songs that are short, sweet and damn catchy. He also deserves to be reprimanded for his glaring flaw: a uniform monotone that saps these engaging ditties of any momentum they might otherwise have generated. It's like listening to Edwyn Collins stuck in "It's a Steal" mode -- once is fine, but an album's worth grates the nerves. However, it's clear Thirwall is trying to stray from his safety zone, and that fact, coupled with the infectious melodies present on nearly every track, make it a disc worth listening and returning to. The lazy guitar progression on "Everybody Loves You" sets a fine, understated standard for the album. Mr. Thirlwall also shares with Mr. Collins an affectation for '60s kitsch pop, as evidenced on the swirling new age-retro keyboards of "Xiao". Slight ballads like "Bathtub Full of Water" or the western-tinged "When Love Comes Along" steep the album in an anachronistic cheery-eyed optimism, despite the dark undertones of the overlong "Hold", which carries its seductive opening conceit a bit too long. "Hairdresser in the Sky" walks a thin line between orchestral beauty and flat-out camp, occasionally stumbling into the latter, but this misstep is immediately forgotten upon hearing the Pell Mell-esque "Inner Space 1971", which utilizes Thirlwall's mildly breathy, hints-of-desperation tone to perfection. On an album filled with incredibly short songs, this track in particular left me wanting more. Despite its flaws, I found myself bobbing my head along with Updownaround, even while writing this review. Cheers to Melodiegroup for a job well done. I could have used more vocal variety, but the Grade-A pop melodies are certainly worth the price of admission.   --Splendid
essex's "melodie group", as you will know by now, are the solo nom de plume of the windmills' honey and gravel voiced singer / guitarist, roy thirlwall. while solo projects are too often urban disasters, as listeners to professor griff or eazy-e's efforts will testify, da group have unleashed their first full-length album on the matinée roster, so we weren't overly worried that any overpretentious twaddle would have made it through their quality control department in santa barbara. melodie group announced themselves to us with the uber-wry "seven songs" set in 2000, and have since seduced small corners of our nation with the "raincoat" cd-ep and last 7" "summerness" (which we had down as one of our singles of 2002 in the rose & crown the other day until a passing fanzine editor reminded us that, along with "sugar mummy" and "emmanuelle beart", it had actually come out in 2001 - we later duffed him up). never mind if you missed it, though, because "summerness" is on "updownaround" too, as its last, and still probably best track. nothing to do with summer but everything to do with autumn, "summerness"follows the melodie group's m.o. fairly well, which particularly from "raincoat" has been to concentrate on repeated musical and lyrical phrases rather than the fuller arrangements of the windmills, and to taper the guitars with a drum machine, usually resulting in shorter and more pared-down tunes. the rest of the album also reflects this pattern. introducing itself with the slight trinkets of "everybody loves you" and the simpatico-esque "hold", which ease us in to the melodie brew of sparse drum machine, dutiful semi-electric strumming and are-they-sarky vocals, it is with "bathtub full of water" that we start to revisit the picturesque territory of "summerness", guided by a curling guitar motif, a so-gentle rhythmic sway, a sudden sincerity and a certain sadness as thirlwall relays his "lonely thoughts" of "killed" love and a "silenced" heart. to follow it, he does a mike flowers and knocks out matt monro's distinctly un-sinister waltz "when love comes along", sadly only proving that being tongue-in-cheek does not equal being good. luckily, returning to his own compositions with "xiao", the situation is rescued as a bass-led tune, lightly caressed by a few electric guitar cries and thirlwall's deep voice, assembles a beautiful melodic darkness, even managing to detour into a swirling, spangly fairground attraction halfway through without losing its place. marvellous. the second half of "updownaround" begins with what we were going to call a cover of music seen's "hairdresser in the sky" (last seen on a waaah! compilation cd of unremembered vintage), save that a glance at the songwriting credit suggests - and we should have known, really - that thirlwall was apparently behind that anyway, with erstwhile songwriting partner in crime abigail pain. the 2002 take is actually even better, being slightly sparklier (the spangly keyboard topping is almost harper lee) while still measured, and it remains a stately, maudlin modern folk tune which by rights should be much more of a standard than "when love comes along"... humph... next comes the louche wah-guitar spread of "inner space 1971", before "i do not not love you", premiered on the "summer splash!" various artists comp. it is a great mix of handclaps and paranoia, double negatives and a false ending (what more could one want) which would also seem rather short if it wasn't for the fact that it's followed by the 49 seconds of "butterfly: tart", which to be fair doesn't justify much longer. and then it's on to "summerness" to close and remind us why there is still a definite place for melodie group in their own right even as the windmills follow a separate yellow brick road to success. hopefully.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
The word "jangle" gets thrown around quite a bit in reference to music. Check out; the site has a page dedicated jangle pop, as demonstrated by early R.E.M. and Let's Active, defined as the "American post-punk movement of the mid-'80s that marked a return to the chiming guitars and pop melodies of the '60s." The use of "jangle" in conjunction with music goes back to the 12-string strum of Roger McGuinn and the Byrds, who were the pioneers of the folk-rock/Beatles mélange that a decade later become known as jangle pop. So what's the big deal? The use of the word is all wrong, another in a long line of misappropriated words used all the time in the English language. Jangle means a harsh, discordant sound, and brother, there ain't nothing harsh or discordant about the sounds emanating from Peter Buck's Fender. Jingle pop would be a more apt name for the genre, but there's no point in fighting city hall in this case. If jangly is the way I have to describe the sound emanating from my CD speakers when the Melodie Group's Updownaround, so be it. Yes, the Melodie Group is to thank for this outburst, but take a listen to their debut album and let me know if anything but the word "jangle" comes to mind. The group -- which is hardly a group at all, as it relies almost exclusively on the Windmills' Roy Thirlwall, who writes/sings/performs every song -- draws heavily from its indie pop forefathers on its debut album, but never reaches the same heights of the bands it emulates. Updownaround is a charming, pleasant set of 10 stripped-down, personal songs clocking in at just under 27 minutes. The tracks are short and sweet, almost to a fault. The foundation of each song is simple enough: Clean, jangly (natch) guitar, synth swooshes, drum machine loops, and different variations of Thirlwall's monotone but engaging vocals. But in this case, foundation is the whole structure, as Thirlwall's compositions vary little in terms of form. "Everybody Loves You" kicks off the proceedings and serves as an apt starting place for the album. Thirlwall's vocals are up front and center, as they are throughout most of the album. In this case, Thirlwall is a dead-ringer for former Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, which would be disturbing if not for the whimsical nature of the lyrics. It's hard to imagine the depressive Curtis singing "We are all naked under our clothes" unless quickly followed by "I'm ashamed of what my body looks like". Thirlwall's voice changes throughout, sometimes bringing back the Curtis inflections but often forging his own distinct variation. "When Loves Come Along" evokes another famed monotone, both in vocal inflection and songwriting. The track would not sound out of place on the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs collection, with its jaunty pace and Stephen Merritt-influenced deadpan. It's a simple love song for a first crush, fleeting but deeply felt. "Bathtub Full of Water" brings the R.E.M. fetish to the fore, as Thirlwall's guitar sounds like Buck's, circa Reckoning. "I Do Not Not Love You" speeds up the languid, easy pace most of the album floats along by, with a revved up drum machine and use of the most underrated of all rhythmic tools, the handclap (with the added bonus of a personal favorite language trick, the double negative). The centerpiece of the album is "Hairdresser in the Sky", which overcomes some strange lyrics ("Rain washed my hair / The wind blew it dry / It was the hairdresser in the sky") by infusing the song with an overwhelming melancholy beauty. Reminiscent of Radiohead's "Nice Dream", "Hairdresser in the Sky" aptly fuses synth swooshes with plaintive guitar work to build a sense of epic sadness, a depth of emotion not available in any of the other songs.   --Pop Matters
After a series of great EPs, we finally have Melodie Group's debut album. This is just perfect jangle pop, that will make any fans of East Village, Go Betweens very happy! Melodie Group feature members of another Matinée Records favourite band, The Windmills. Recommended!!   --Pop Polar
Non è necessario aggiungere granché al nome scelto da Roy Thirlwall per questo suo progetto solista: l'estetica e gli scopi di Melodie Group stanno tutti nella ragione sociale, e sono espressi al meglio nelle dieci docili canzoncine di Updownaround. La Melodia è il supremo ente portante del lavoro: è attorno ad essa che Roy costruisce educatamente i suoi pezzi, plasmandoli morbidi e cesellandoli sino a limare ogni imperfezione. Una melodia che affonda divertita le radici in ogni aspetto della musica pop e che impone il massimo della pulizia sonora; dopo tanta fatica Thirlwall non può certo far sì che una produzione lo-fi comprometta la perfezione delle sue armonie, e allora il basso risalta chiaro come una batteria, la chitarra arpeggia note limpidissime e indisturbate dal lavoro di studio. Detto questo, trovare dei genitori ad Updownaround e alla sua girandola di citazioni è un gioco persino divertente; i Windmills sono dietro l'angolo, certo, e nulla può nasconcere il crooning Morrisseyano del nostro (ditemi se "Xiao" non sembra prelavata di peso da "Viva Hate"), ma il programma riserva lo stesso diverse sorprese: gli inserti elettronici su base di basso di "Hold" ricordano il Paul Roland più ispirato, "When love comes along" indossa i panni del più sofisticato country-rock, e c'è anche una favola surreale come la bella "Hairdresser in the sky", che cita Moz ma fa in realtà pensare al suo più devoto emulo americano, Don Lennon. Ottimi pretesti per estrinsecare la vena melodica del nostro, che finisce per centrare dieci piccole gemme brevi ed orecchiabili come nella miglior tradizione del genere, superando i limiti di una voce monocorde grazie a liriche tutt'altro che banali. Come Morrissey, Thirlwall si crogiola infatti nel proprio disagio, lo eleva a tratto distintivo della sua musica e del suo carattere e ottiene un lavoro intimo, armonioso e malinconico. Una sorta di contorto percorso di educazione amorosa, che parte dall'ossessione per le pin-ups ("Everybody loves you", canzone d'amore per la ragazza di un poster che porge al muro un verso morboso e tenero al tempo stesso come "Dont' you go away and break my heart") e attraversa amori desiderati e persi sino al rifiuto di "I do not love you", probabilmente la canzone pop più compiuta - e più anni 80 - di un disco fatto di "battimani e paranoia", come ha efficacemente sintetizzato qualcuno. Semplicemente magnetico (fields).
Un joli disque hanté par le passé, comme échappé de la page 1984 de votre mémoire affective : rappelez-vous, c'était l'année de "Hatful of Hollow" (the Smiths), "Spring Hill Fair" (the Go-Betweens), "Rattlesnakes" (Lloyd Cole and the Commotions) ou encore "Pacific Street" (the Pale Foutains). Voilà, vous y êtes : la même production fruste, les rythmiques sèches, les ourlets de guitare, les poussées de lyrisme, le désenchantement précédant l'âge mûr. Nous avons tous été adolescents sur ces musiques parfois découvertes sur le tard et, d'une certaine manière, avec elles nous le resterons. Alors, qu'un certain Roy Thirlwall, par ailleurs chanteur et guitariste des Windmills, se mette à écrire depuis ce lieu intime de notre passé a quelque chose d'un mystère alchimique que je me garderai bien de chercher à dissiper. On ne peut même plus appeler cela du mimétisme, car Melodie Group échappe en général à la comparaison ou bien l'assume jusqu'au vertige : à plusieurs reprises, par exemple sur "Bathtub full of Water" ou "Inner Space 1971", tout l'univers de Felt nous est redonné en madeleine savoureuse. Comme le premier morceau semble vraiment sortir des prises de "Poem of the river" (échos des thèmes, des accentuations vocales, de l'accompagnement) on peut supposer qu'il s'agit là d'un hommage énamouré à cette musique fondatrice : bienheureuse réminiscence. Ailleurs, le groupe ne ressemble qu'à lui-même, mais parlant depuis son jeune âge une langue musicale devenue seconde nature, il convoque au passage, presque par hasard, tous ces glorieux fantômes, sans que nous puissions reconnaître tout à fait l'un ou l'autre. Le narrateur de la Recherche entrant au fameux "bal des têtes" ne serait pas moins égaré que l'auditeur de ces pop-songs. Musique sans avenir mais grosse de son passé, "Updownaround" a un énorme public potentiel et la production la plus pauvre du moment. Anomalie désuète ou miraculeuse nostalgie ? À vous de juger.   --Pop News
Hett efterlängtad albumdebot fr f d The Windmills medlemmar. Musikaliskt har jämförelser gjorts med The Go-Betweens, Grant McLennan och Robert Forster + Echo and the Bunnymen, East Village och Felt. Tillåt dej att dras in i en värld och ett skimmer av softa och melodiska poplåtar och texter som blandar melankoli och ren och pur kärlek. Vackert á la Trembling Blue Stars och Field Mice. BRA!!!   --Delicious Goldfish
Met een derde recensie in een jaar tijd, mag de Melodie Group zich met recht een Think Small-regular noemen. Voor wie niet alle recensies uit het hoofd heeft geleerd: de Melodie Group is voornamelijk Roy Thirlwall, afkomstig uit Southend-On-Sea en ook actief als zanger/gitarist bij The Windmills. Net als deze band klinkt de Melodie Group als vroege indiepop (laten we zeggen, midden jaren '80, net voor de opkomst van C86 en laten we vooral hard zeggen: The Go-Betweens): donkere, melancholieke muziek, die goed past in politiek en economisch minder florissante tijden als deze. Geen protestmuziek, maar muziek die je kunt luisteren als je afgesloten van de buitenwereld op je eigen veilige kamer zit, zonder dat het al te somber klinkt. Mooie muziek, dat ook. Het enige minpuntje is dat er wat weinig onderling verschil tussen de nummers zit, waardoor tien nummers wellicht net iets te veel van het goede is. Nou ja, te lang op je kamer opgesloten zitten is ook niet goed, nietwaar?   --Think Small