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THE SHADOW OF HEAVEN

THE SHADOW OF HEAVEN

Having never experienced Manchester-borne M O N E Y I was intrigued to review their debut, The Shadow of Heaven, as the chosen juxtaposition of finance and spirituality seemed curious. The band settled on this name after much oscillation, indicative of their non-committal nihilist ethos. With titles like ‘So Long (God is Dead)’, ‘Cruelty of Godliness’ and ‘The Shadow of Heaven’, allusions to His Holiest are not lacking. Singer Jamie Lee scrawls in romantic Blakean prose – possibly with a makeshift quill on a serviette in blood – “As I was in full and celestial flight of my midyouth I heard a voice to say it was my fate to lose all.” Statement gigs at Salford’s Sacred Trinity Church or his solo Manchester International Festival appearance in a fountain sustain the mystical spectacle. The hints continue. Publicity shots circulate of band members swan diving out of windows or levitating in hipster serenity, arms outstretched, heads lolling back – martyred icons or enraptured devotees? Time alone will tell how such self-prophesising can play out.

Their self-proclaimed ‘dystopian choral’ sound heightens the theme of the sacredness in the chime laden ‘So Long (God is Dead)’, the first and strongest track on the album. Here their sound ripples its way through tenderly plucked guitars, lulling percussion and airy choir boy vocals. ‘Who’s Going to Love You Now’ crescendos in cylindrical waves as Lee breaks into discordant hallowed moaning. ‘Bluebell Fields’ is a dreamy, searching ode to bygone worlds suspended between watery 60s nostalgia and the indie-psychedelia sublimated as vintage chic. The deliberately minimalist ‘Goodnight London’, with time-worn piano accompaniment, conjures moon-drenched Metropolitan wanderings, but Lee’s quivering vocals are uncertain and it’s hard not to hear a mediocre Coldplay rip off. ‘The Cruelty of Godliness’ – more contemporary choral harmonics – is spoilt by warbled off-key notes and is less graceful than the previous example. I imagine the band would legitimise this as the essential imperfection manifest in all earthly endeavours.

The music is soulful and promising but Lee could spend less time wandering the wilderness and more time in rehearsals.