The Proper Ornaments will be hoping that their third album release, Six Lenins, will signal a period of peace and calm after a turbulent time for their long-term writing duo of James Hoare and Max Claps.
Recording of their second album Foxhole, in 2017, was blighted by illness, divorce and drug abuse, but they still created a pleasant slice of mid-60s nostalgia-tinted pop. Last year Hoare left his other band Ultimate Painting, after band-leader Jack Cooper cited an irreconcilable breakdown, leaving Hoare free to concentrate on the Ornaments’ latest project. For Six Lenins Hoare and Claps are joined by Danny Nellis (bass) and Bobby Syme on drums.
The new album opens on a high. Apologies features luscious warm harmonies and jangling guitars, a modern take on 60s West Coast folk-rock as are Where Are You Now, Please Release Me and Bullet From A Gun.
The album was recorded over a period of just two weeks and, whilst it is quite an easy listen, one can’t help wondering if it was a little rushed when some of the tracks begin to lose their identity and sound the same. Was this also why they overlooked the flat, monotone vocals that mar Can’t Even Change Your Name?
Song For John Lennon reflects Hoare’s love of the great man from listening to Beatles albums among his parents’ record collection. “Messages you sent to me flowing freely in the breeze,” clearly indicates the influence Lennon had on the young songwriter.
Most interesting are the more psychedelic numbers Crepescular Child, Old Street Station and Six Lenins. The promotional video for Crepescular Child features Hoare looking, for all the world, like a young Syd Barrett. This time the vocals are further back in the mix as the relentless guitar riff drives the song forward.
The title track also appears to be influenced by the early Pink Floyd. “You like to be colourful but it only comes out black,” could well be a sombre reference to Barrett and his fragile state of mind.
The closing In The Garden references another of Hoare’s 60s favourites The Velvet Underground with a driving riff and tasty electric guitar solo, sadly all too little brief.
Six Lenins consolidates The Proper Ornaments earlier work without any significant progression. The promise is there, surely there is much more to come from them in the future.