Beachy Head – Beachy Head
Written by Mark Anderson on April 28, 2021
The beautiful Beachy Head cliffs in England are a popular tourist destination as well as a notorious suicide spot. It’s that dichotomy between the joyous and the heart-wrenching despair that run up the back bone of Beachy Head’s self-titled debut album.
Founded by Slowdive guitarist Christian Savill, along with Ryan Graveface of The Casket Girls and Graveface Records, Steve Clarke of The Soft Cavalry, Matt Duckworth of The Flaming Lips… if that list of illustrious players wasn’t enough, Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and Mojave 3 fame lends her considerable vocal talents to the project too.
I preordered this album without hearing a note based on the strength of that lineup. I have been so looking forward to hearing it start to finish. Let’s drop the needle and see what they have in store for us.
The album opens on the luscious “Warning Bell”. The verse has a Celtic (almost folk) vocal feel before erupting into the most euphoric chorus. As an opener I don’t think they could have picked a stronger song. This one hits you right in the feels.
Next up is “Michael”, a song which feels steeped in rich nostalgia. There is a blend between 80’s synthwave and dream pop pulsing throughout. The video taps into that nostalgia too, with a family playing some VR game that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the TV back in the 90’s.
“Distraction” darkens the tone a little with the band channeling the spirit of Depeche Mode to great effect. Fluttering electronica dances over the sultry bass and echoing synth. I love the dark, almost gothic vibe the band conjure towards the end of the track. Makes you want to skip back and listen again, just to capture the mood, embrace the nuance.
But onwards we go.
The darkness remains for “All Gone”. The song opens with Savill, like a troubadour, laying it all out there. The song is swathed in an eerie undulating drone and swelling synths, lending an other-worldly feel. Whilst the listener is left with a feeling of uneasiness, as if having eavesdropped on a deeply personal conversation, that tension is tempered by the sheer beauty of the vocal delivery.
“Looking for Exits” comes bounding out the gate all happy chords and Duckworth laying down his trademark drum sound. Alas the lyrics tell a more ill-starred tale “I held on to the fragments / cause she was only looking for exits”. This is the magic of Beachy Head. Taking the deeply sorrowful and couching it in a killer melody. Coming in at just under three minutes I was crying out for more. Something tells me that was the plan.
This album’s acoustic ballad is up next in the shape of “October”. There is an unmistakable Mojave 3 influence in the delivery of this number. That slow shamble is then warped as the song progresses, and it is inexorably overwhelmed and engulfed in a slow-building wash of reverb.
In striking contrast, “Hiddensea” is a strident electronic pop smash. It’s like a mash up of Castlebeat and Tubeway Army. This song is my absolute favourite on the album. The simplistic guitar line really appeals to me. Ultimately though, it all comes back the chorus. In “Hiddensea”, Beachy Head have the most devastatingly catchy hook. This song alone will keep the album on my turntable for a long time to come.
The closer, “Destroy Us”, leans into that Tubeway Army vibe instigated by the previous song. The vocals are massive, like medieval castle turrets bearing down on the rest of the song. I love how the synth mirrors the vocal line. It adds that extra texture to lift the song from really good to absolutely exceptional.
What Savill & Co. have created in Beachy Head is another world: a place where you can lose yourself for half an hour in the glorious songcraft on display. Compound that with stellar performances from all involved, and you have a sure-fire hit on your hands.
Beachy Head is available now via Bandcamp and in independent record shops.