Album 1: Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenberg
Track 2: Cake
Track 3: Pony
Track 5: Cacen Mamgu
Track 12: Captain Penelope Smith
When the Beatles completed work on Sgt Pepper’s in the early months of 1967, it marked the end of an era for the world’s biggest band. Five further LPs would be released bearing the group’s name, but never again would they record with the cohesion and confidence they had displayed on Pepper’s and on Revolver ten months before that.
Had the Fab Four managed to maintain their trajectory after Sgt Pepper’s, however, they might’ve come up with something like Goodbye Falkenberg. That’s not to say that a debut album from barely-known Welsh youngsters is the rightful heir to what is frequently decreed the greatest record of all time, but simply that it feels entirely comfortable in Pepper’s presence – a rare thing in itself that’s worthy of recognition.
That comfort stems partly from deliberate patronage – “I want to be your Lonely Hearts Club Band”, sings Meilyr Jones with considerable candour on Pony – but it also, and more deeply, comes from the immense feeling of inventiveness and independence that runs equally throughout both records, and that’s what really defines Goodbye Falkenberg: exquisitely produced to sound lush but madcap, with wonderfully eccentric tangents pacing the record, there’s a giddiness and irreverence here combined with a serious sense of intent that’s irresistible.
It’s also a beautifully sequenced record: big singalongs launch the album with a maddeningly addictive fanfare and pave the way perfectly for the more lurching intensity of Cacen Mamgu and the astonishing Voyage to St Louiscious. From there, a reprise of the opening number (perhaps another nod towards Sgt Pepper) offers an anchor point, before three progressively more passionate songs round things out, and the consequence is the feeling of a real musical journey by the record’s end.
Of course, part of what made the Beatles’ best records so impressive is that they sounded like nothing that had gone before, and on that count Goodbye Falkenberg is plainly 43 years late to the party: many of its trademarks – the reversed guitar solos, the minisymphonies full of neat orchestration – sound great but are by no means novel. It’s also worth remembering that debut records with this much self-propulsion and energy are seldom bettered by their authors (cf Oasis, The Strokes etc), so calling Race Horses the next Beatles is clearly spurious.
What is so exciting, though, is that Goodbye Falkenberg dovetails instantly into the great British pop canon not through pastiche or popularity but because of its mindblowingly consistent quality and a berserk loveability. There’s not a song out of place here, and the majority of them contain some of the sweetest lyrics and most memorable melodies of recent years. Witty, adventurous, and astonishingly accomplished for a debut LP, Goodbye Falkenberg is wonderfully accessible yet long-lasting, coherent yet pleasingly jumbled and, most impressively, utterly in keeping with some of the most perfect records ever.
Download Goodbye Falkenberg or buy the physical edition direct from Fantastic Plastic Records’ website
Stream Goodbye Falkenberg on Spotify