Album Review: The Dowling Poole – ‘Bleak Strategies’

dowlingpoolecoverWhat to do get if you put two of the most talented musicians ever to emerge from the UK in the same studio and let them record an album? Well, the worry would be that by some freak accident their genius would cancel the others out and the result would be a horrible mess of ideas. Thankfully that’s not the case with The Dowling Poole. which consists of  Willie Dowling (Honeycrack/Jackdaw4/The Grip) and Jon Poole (God Damn Whores/Cardiacs/Ginger Wildheart Band/ The Wildhearts) and their take on eccentric pop is something to be cherished.

Jon has said ‘You’d be hard pressed to guess who wrote what since we both were adding ideas left right and centre to each others work‘ and to a point that’s true. At first it’s easy to pin all the odd rhythms and proggier aspects on  Poole but closer inspection of Dowling’s back catalogue reveals they are all over his previous output. Similarly when it it comes to writing some straight ahead pop hooks Jon Poole is no slouch as he ably demonstrated on the two God Damn Whores records as well as his solo album.

‘Bleak Strategies’ opens with the classic summery pop of ‘The Sun Is Mine’, starting with a bouncy acoustic figure that is soon joined by Beach Boys-esque backing vocals and a glistening guitar line. Willie takes the lead on this one but Jon brings his distinctive vocals to the fore on track two ‘A Kiss On The Ocean’. Sounding very Sparks-y and with a simple melody that Jon takes to next level purely by delivering each line like only he can.

The beautiful ‘Hey Stranger’ is probably the perfect example of this musical marriage, Jon’s acoustic verses juxtaposed with the circus rhythm of Willie’s, well it’s not the chorus we aren’t looking at anything quite so simple here, but Willie’s ‘bit’ then by the end we have some classic “Ba Ba Ba’s” to join in with which makes the song almost perfect.

The Kinks meets Chase & Dave via way of the Beatles of  ‘Saving It All For A Saturday’ is lyrically dense and contains the soon to be classic line “Postman flips the finger to the girl upon the corner who’s been hanging out her nightie with her fanny in the breeze”. ‘Paper Scissors Stone’ subtle hooks float around seeping unknowingly into your brain and ‘Empires Buildings And Acquisitions’ (which, let’s admit stinks of Jackdaw4’s ‘Jesus Wants My Soul Back’ ) is perfect pop that manages to squeeze in the word blunderbuss, so extra points there. Things get wonderfully weird on the prog-pop of ‘Twilight Subplot’, the melody going nowhere you expect and the rhythm constantly shifting to suit the songs needs.

The album ends on the soaring ‘Clean’ which heralds the welcome return of Jon and Willie’s cohort Givvi Flynn who adds her unique vocal style to the song. Epic and with shades of Beatles at their most grandiose, ‘Clean’ closes the album perfectly.

‘Bleak Strategies’ is easily on of the best albums of 2014 so far and it should be heard by as many people as possible.

You can probably still order on their pledge page if your quick. So off you pop




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