Hmmm… you know how Republic by New Order is bollocks? Why is that? Sure, it’s got ‘Regret’ but after that it slides off into what my mate Matt calls “Coldplay music for mums”. Well, after having been listening to The Raft aka Phil Wilson I think I know what happened. Clearly, the best explanation is some kind of time-shift music displacement. Maybe some Germanc souding robot as wide as a door from the future travelled back to the 1990s and changed the future. Maybe Republic was originally awesome, but it’s greatness lead to some epoch shattering disaster. Maybe the future wanted to make sure ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ became a thing. So, using some space-time technology lost to us, the music planned for Republic got lost in some neverplace void-ville until it eventually came to light under the auspices of Phil Wilson.
This makes a lot of sense. Phil’s music is lightly shoegaze but concentrates on breezy, summery pop music, what Republic was probably aiming for, but missed. Barney, off the back of Electronic, could easily have written these songs, on the back of his yacht. Steve Morris could easily have drummed on these songs, from behind a Panzer tank, or summink. Peter Hook could easily have grumbled his way through these songs (the Italian for grumble is “brontolare” btw).
Phil has a peculiar knack for writing evocative, melodic pop songs that glisten and glide and every so often ripple with warm nostalgic pulls from yesteryear.
Let’s have a look at his recent EPs.
First up is Coming Up For Air. ‘So Glad I Know’ floats like a piece of Scottish post-punk, in a slightly fey Orange Juice / Altered Images manner. The middle is packed with an extended riptide of acoustic and electric guitars. ‘Coming Up For Air’ has a stately piano ambience which opens out into a distinctly epic number, worthy of what late era Roxy Music should have been. ‘Anarchy In Our Guitars’ hits a sweetly nostalgic tang of the last episode of your favourite TV show’s montage showcasing the characters and best moments. ‘Regrets’ is simply lovely; resting on a chorus as joyous and heart-felt as a summer’s day on Albert Docks, eating an ice cream with your girl on your arm.
More music from the real Republic surfaced on A Lullaby. ‘I’m So High’ church keys and softly rolling guitars gives an early morning vibe before a frisky drumbeat enters, like a dog at your heels. Then it really emerges in full Brit pop glory. There’s a keyboard line in the background which is just delightful. ‘O No She’s Alone’ continues with a tune perfect for a Lilt commercial; fresh-faced youths loitering on beaches. Again, there’s a dance orientated keyboard part which other bands would make the centre piece. What’s great about Phil is he comes up with wonderful parts, which are just that, parts of a song, he doesn’t feel the need to ram home his moments of glory cos he’s got a sackload of them. ‘O A Lullaby / Nobody’s Daughter’ ends like a dissipating memory, slipping away with its softly chiming keys and rippling guitar.
‘Blue And Blue’ starts Orion like a Match Of The Day Goal Of The Month competition and has a striding guitar solo. ‘Orion’ has a chorus which could be the Bunnymen, supplemented by a moody drum section and Eastern guitar solo. ‘Into You’ is a bit more on The Beautiful South end of the spectrum, which probably comes from Claire O’Neill’s swoony breathy vocals – more please! ‘My Elusive Friend’ rounds us of like a Peter Beagrie goal, sweeping and glorious*.
This may be 3 EPs but they fit together like one album, like Republic by New Order. Which it could be, but it’s not, it’s The Raft. Buy all three for a fiver and you’ll think the 90s were better than they were probably were.
*I was going to change this as Phil is a Red… but always go with what you write first is my rule.