Following last week's laid-back look at some rock and roll with Liam Gallagher, this week sees a return to a full band and the rather obscure How We Live, with their only album, Dry Land.
The title Dry Land might be familiar to fans of Aylesbury prog-rock band Marillion, with it being the title of one of their more successful songs of the Hogarth era, direct from 1991's Holidays In Eden. What you might not know however is that Dry Land was a song written by Hogarth during his time with Colin Woore in How We Live. The duo formed in 1987 following the break-up of their previous band, The Europeans, some two years earlier and whilst this record didn't chart, it's still absolutely brilliant.
Opener Working Girl sets us off nicely, with Hogarth's signature vocal making this a great opening song, along with the light notes of Woore's guitar making this a little bit bouncier and groovier than first expected. The overall sound, especially for a duo, is tight and, had it not have been for the fact that the album was obscure, fits perfectly within the sounds of the mid-eighties. All The Time In The World is an absolute standout, there's absolutely no doubts here. With its thumping bassline, it continues the groove and is a bit more up-tempo than its predecessor. There's a brilliant sophisti-pop nature to the sound that this track presents, with a bit of a new wave quality creeping in too. In turn, it wouldn't sound out of place covered by the likes of the Blow Monkeys, as it fits their style perfectly.
The aforementioned Dry Land comes next, offering the original take on the Marillion hit. Hearing this original makes you realise that the Aylesbury rockers only built on the work that Hogarth and Woore laid down a few years earlier. It's one of the album's better-known songs and also one of its best - with that light guitar riff and string section, it offers something different to the previous songs, demonstrating Hogarth's versatility. It also makes you realise how pristine Hogarth's voice is in more recent times, as it hasn't changed at all, even from 1987. Games In Germany slows things back down a little, opting for a more emotional tune, with just Hogarth and a piano early on, before jumping into a proper wall of sound with some subtle guitar work from Woore and a great set of strings that makes the emotions of this songs even more present than before. It heightens the entire standard of the production and the listening experience too. There's also something wonderfully catchy about Games In Germany with its accessible nature and pop-driven sound.
India brings in an acoustic guitar and some light drums to allow Hogarth's voice to become a key art of this song, reflecting its stripped back and simple nature of the lyric. It's another keyboard-based love song, detailing the simplicity and sheer purity of an Indian girl's life within the big city. There's a certain mellow nature to this track that again shows that it's always a case of quality, not quantity that makes a fantastic song. The Rainbow Room offers something a little more sinister, with a thicker sound that any other song present on Dry Land. With its heavy and funky guitar riff and Hogarth's monotone vocal, it offers something in a similar vein to the earlier work of R.E.M perhaps, with the marimba in the background helping to add substance to an otherwise fantastic song.
Lost At Sea continues the mellow sentiments previously found on India, opting again for a soulful Hogarth vocal and piano and string combination that complements the overall sound of the song perfectly. It's not long before the sporadic bass notes and distorted guitar get brought in, as well as a nice little piano riff and the song builds to give a cool feeling. Again, it's got groove and substance, and with the introduction of a saxophone, there's a certain yacht-rock nature to this that exudes this feeling of relaxation and not giving a damn. In The City draws on the horn sections of Lost At Sea, placing them right at the start, along with some great percussion and a light vocal from Hogarth to continue this laid-back sound, before the bass creeps in and adds that little something to make this a little jazzier. With the frequently sharp piano chords, there's a certain ABC-like quality to this song, in a similar way to Poison Arrow from 1982, especially also with little tropes of a muted trumpet. It's one of Dry Land's smoother and jazzier songs, commenting on the natures and intricacies of city life.
Working Town, with its sparse arrangement, allows for a greater focus on Hogarth's sincere and heartfelt vocal. Let it be said that Working Town offers arguably the best one of the record and that's hardly surprising given how close the song's topic is to Hogarth's heart. It concerns the closure and demise of traditional Northern working towns, including Hogarth's native Doncaster. As Hogarth has stated in the past, "I tried to avoid blaming anybody or saying 'everybody's on the dole', you know, 'this is so-and-so's fault'. I just wanted to try and write a song about how sad it was. Just in human terms rather than in political terms". The final song present on Dry Land is A Beat In The Heart is a signature song from How We Live. Its lyrics see a return to the idea of city alienation, with a solid bassline and funky horn section to help close the album in a fantastic way. In addition, with Woore's solid Nile Rodgers-esque guitar, it's pretty damn difficult to go wrong with this song, or indeed the entire album.
It's certainly clear that Dry Land ought to have charted an awful lot higher than it did and gain a lot more recognition in the process. Like a lot of artists of the eighties, How We Live got left under the carpet to be trampled by the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, which is rather unfortunate. If you're looking for something brilliant and a little obscure to listen to, then this is a great starting point.]
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/331evvC
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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