Our Daily Bread 491: Provincials ‘Heaven Protect Us’

February 2, 2022

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Provincials ‘Heaven Protect Us’
(Itchen Recordings) 4th February 2022

We’ve had the doomsday Dark Ages album now it’s time to seek succour from the heavens as the Provincials take us into yet another anxious-riddled year of pandemic eclipsed misery. The latest album plea is suffused with ethereal romanticism and bitter distain: they can hardly hide their anger at the current Tory shit show – though Christ knows exactly where a better, more sympathetic and competent alternative will spring from (hello Lib Dems who at least seem to be bloodying Boris’s nose in recent by-elections) – on the vitriolic scowl ‘You’ll Evaporate’.

Once more lifted out of what could have been an abrasive barrage of insults and wounded pride by Polly Perry’s soaring and aching diaphanous voice and the accentuated musical accompaniment of all-rounder Seb Hunter (who also join’s his partner in harmonic duet, and even gets to sing lead on the touching if pained emotional pulling folksy tinted ‘Kiss Of Life’) and drummer/piano-player Steve Gibson – brought in again to expand the range and horizons. 

Always better when following a more ambiguous line then when bashing out the disgust, the Provincials traverse the themes of a crumbling society with songs of personal grief and lovelorn plaint. They do this exquisite balance of the sinewy and often beautiful by sending the late 60s Fillmore East (Cold Blood and Jefferson Airplane) and Zappa into a oscillating spin with the handclapped ferocious ‘Planetary Stand-Off’, or by channeling The Sundays, Throwing Muses and All About Eve (even a touch of Sleeper) on such lush, vapour-gauzy fare as the drifting ‘Cold Fusioneers’ and grungy soulful ‘Feels Like Falling’. And still within that scope there’s Iberian acoustic guitar flairs and Wire like tensions, glimpses of Up era R.E.M., shoegaze, country, the outback and of course folk: as remodelled for our fragmented, dislocated times. 

Synthesised, acoustic and electric sparks of inspired torrid musicianship sound the alarms on another lush songbook. Every strung-out and intense widening of the band’s folk roots hangs on to a melody; never losing sight of a tuneful delivery even in the most grinding and bleakest of times.  

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