With their third album, Winchester Cathedral, the medically inclined art-rock
combo from Liverpool have indeed met the high expectations created by their powerful
2000 debut, Internal Wrangler. The new album keeps you on the edge of
your seat as it builds and begs and burns. Both sweetness and bleak despair are
here amid the mighty layers of instrumentation. The vocals slur, swimming in
swirls of guitar and a shattering onslaught of beats, while cymbals crash on
the sidelines and cooing electronic effects drift by overhead. And all the while,
a sense of imminent danger lurks like the clock is ticking and you're
waiting for a mighty explosion, only when you get it and you're still reeling
from the impact, another one comes.
This beautifully textured album opens aptly with a heart monitor, beeping at an ever-increasing speed before flatlining into the introduction of "Country Mile," as if to say, "Welcome back, dear fans." The opener features sparkling effects, distant, chiming guitar, and shimmering tambourines, while the dreary "Anne" is infected with sadness, rumbling rhythms and, ultimately, glimmers of hope. Beginning with whispered "I do"'s and an undercurrent of dark guitar, "Home" is also a sad, emotive cut about, what else, coming home again. "The Majestic" thrives on pulsating, upbeat beats and twirling melodies, while "August" makes me think of a carnival. In all, a strong return to form.