Recommended by us on 22nd October 2010.
Info: Manchester’s Warm Widow never really intended to make this album – well, not in the way that ‘Widower’ presents itself anyway. This was supposed to be the scratchy blueprint for the actual Warm Widow album, recorded, you know, like proper albums are recorded: in a recording studio perhaps, with an array of ‘appropriate’ microphones, with an actual producer (or certainly an engineer), and time to allow the band the breathing space to ‘nail it’, with additional options to try multiple takes and overdubs - in general, recording with a certain amount of control and ease. Fact of the matter is, when White Box got their hands on the ‘Widower’ album, complete with the word ‘demo’ scrawled across the wonderfully refined cover art (courtesy of UK artist Rachel Goodyear), it was apparent what had to be done: the word ‘demo’ had to be removed - and that was pretty
much it. ‘Widower’ is an urgent and an unorthodox rock album. Captured live in a matter of hours, entirely recorded on three rather shitty SM58 microphones in the grimy confines of some of Manchester and Salford’s least-welcoming environments for a band trying to ‘lay it down’. The struggle the band found
their sorry asses enveloped in to make this record is the very thing that gives ‘Widower’ its character. You too would be keen to get the fucker nailed sharpish if you were working in a non-soundproofed room, above a gym full of pissed off bodybuilders and ‘bear-men’, keen to put into practice their
abilities to kick the living shit out of ‘noisy, talentless bastards upstairs’.
Yes, ‘Widower’ was born feet first and it shows in the way it thinks - ‘Widower’ worked at the sausage plant, which made its clothing stink. The trio of Lianne Steinberg (drums/totally fucked-up arm leading to a hiatus in performing for the best part of a year with the excruciatingly painful exception of
this recording session), Zak Hane (bass and homeless), and Martin Greenwood (guitar/vocal/ problematic approaches) had to fight and fuck their way through the session with minimum fuss, and an absolute determination to ‘finish’. Greenwood opted to ‘finesse’ the delicate flower that was becoming the ‘Widower Demo’ with a few additional guitar and vocal parts, setting about recording the ‘overdubs’ in his flat – much to the immediate annoyance of the neighbours, who quickly reported Greenwood to Manchester City Council (his landlords). Forced to choose between a completed recording and a roof over his head, he chose the demo, finally shifting operations into his make shift vocal booth – well…under the bed covers in attempts to muffle
the bleed of his vocal screeching. The outcome is presented here – you are left with a capture of three attuned performers, nailing…something. ‘Widower’s peculiar, broken sound is
the very thing about the record we love; to even attempt to re-record these tracks in a more professional environment would have been a pointless exercise. ‘Warm Widow’s lo-fi pop blasts give a nod of the head to some of the sexiest bands we’ve fawned over – album opener ‘Cracker’ recalls the ‘Slates’ period coldness of The Fall, Greenwood’s uniquely scattershot lyrical imagery cutting its own dark path throughout the record. Elsewhere there’s the early Jesus Lizard-esque ‘Lost Dog’. We find the Anglophile-via-U.S. pop sensibilities of Guided By Voices in there (title track ‘Widower’) – Guided By Voices seem to be a fitting reference point here, as a band whose sound became in part defined through their own limited recording
resources. Elsewhere ‘Dogs In The Surgery’ could have been co-written with Bob Mould during the Sugar period, ‘A Million Butterfly Skulls’ could have easily slipped its way onto Wire’s ‘Chairs Missing’ LP. Album closer ‘Back Of The Class’ resolutely and unashamedly echoes The Fall’s ‘Spoilt Victorian Child’.
There are undeniable points of reference to Warm Widow’s influences throughout ‘Widower’, but, like The Fall, their dark centre is clearly a sound which could only be born out of circumstance in a bleak inner-city surrounding – Manchester is the culprit. Warm Widow are the band. The sound is
future fucking now.
1) Cracker 2) Lost Dog 3) Ficht Heit 4) Widower 5) A Million Butterfly Skulls 6) In A Blackout 7) Dogs In The Surgery 8) Scruff Of His Neck 9) Back Of The Class
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