FOUR QUARTETS – The Paragon of Animals (Wooden Step) – The first, entirely obvious thing to say here is that these people really, really know how to write extremely well crafted songs. When it all comes down to it, strong song writing is what it really is all about, every time. And Four Quartets write classic songs.
Four Quartets are the brainchild of Bristol based singer/songwriter Rob Sharples. These songs are a seamlessly easy weaving of lush melodies, and without being any kind of cheap clone there’s a taste of a relaxed late period Beatles, of the layers of Beach Boys, the moods and restrained texture of Radiohead – that richness, that slow-paced rich-bodied sound. Not as experimental as the aformentioned Radiohead, far more to do with the idea of ‘conventional’ songs, but underneath the melodies are as complex as popular songwriting can get – shifting key changes and melodic twists. Some of those qualities of the very best song-smiths, people like Elliott Smith or Rob Crow, the depth of Elvis Costello – yes really that good, we don’t throw these comparisons around lightly.
Seems that Four Quartets are just one person – it certainly doesn’t sound like it, sounds like a fully formed band… the work of four or five all done by one? Painstakingly beautiful, glorious attention to detail, perfect production, if he really did do all this by himself, and on a shoestring, then keep this man poor and away from big studios and soul destroying budgets. This is greatness, so much going on under the hood, a richness both in terms of words and tunes, yet all so easily accessible, soft and spectral sparse in such a full bodied intelligent way. So much depth here, and not a moment of filler. A year of work, beset by faulty equipment, borrowed mics and instruments, an outmoded iMac and self-taught engineering – but it sounds like Rob Sharples has been in Abbey Road with a front line producer to us.
Perfectly put together, cleverly detailed, carefully crafted, perfect songs, classic lush timeless pop, clever chords, subtle twists, distinctive character, cohesively wonderful, fluid… oh, listen to that bit… and that one… oh that was such a good bit… “lyrically the songs reflect a profound but unpretentious love of literature that evokes a picture of a world both beautiful and brutal” they say – and all done with not a hint of a cliché, all done with such humanity..