Welsh quartet Race Horses are certainly a diverse bunch, but not judging the album by its cover would be about the best thing you could do before plunging into ‘Goodbye Falkenburg’. The band have said that they are influenced by everything from Queen to The Fall - we reckon that’s a fairly broad range of influences, and it quickly becomes apparent that, just as this would suggest, their sound is hard to pin down. One thing’s for sure, though: This album is one hell of a lot of fun.
It should be noted that it’s a concept record of sorts, but while such a term conjures up images of bloated progressive rock, there are no weird musical or conceptual journeys undertaken here. Instead, the album is loosely based around the deathbed reminiscences of a sailor.
Recent single ‘Man In My Mind’ opens proceedings and does quite a good job of doing so. Irresistably catchy, it pairs up with ‘Cake’ (the band’s debut single) to get the record off to a flyer - though its rather pointless reprise ‘Man In My Mind/In A Party Near You’, along with ‘Disco Pig’ (and yes, it’s exactly what it says: sounds of a pig snorting over a disco beat. W.T.F., indeed.), is blatant filler. The latter of this opening duo highlights their psychedelic rock leanings, and also, their way with a melody and a quirky lyric (‘She wanted cake / She was the one who first turned me on to it’).
Something that might be considered interesting is that Race Horses opt for a bilingual approach to certain songs. After the impressive ‘Isle of Ewe’, we are treated to the first of these tracks, sung partly in Welsh: ‘Cacen Mamgu’ is one the album’s highlights, boasting a harmony-laden chorus.
The second of these, ‘Glo Ac Oren’, finds the band opting for more delicate soundscapes, and makes for a nice change from the relentless energy of the rest of the album’s first half. This is followed by the lovely, strings-laden ‘Voyage to St. Louiscious’, whose lyrics, like those of ‘Cake’, are worth a mention, like this for instance: "The night we spent listening to Clifford T. Ward / I found him quite funny, but it’s you that I adored".
Uncertainly follows with the aforementioned filler tracks, and these, along with the limp ‘Scooter’, give the impression that ‘Goodbye Falkenburg’ is going to run out of steam, but these prove to be but a small speed bump. Instrumental ‘Intergalactic Space Rebellion’ finds the band rocking out - something that they are quite good at judging by this tantalisingly short piece - before the album’s two strongest tracks bring things to a remarkably satisfying conclusion.
The Beatles-esque ‘Captain Penelope Smith’, all harpsichords and French horns, is a stirring four minutes, the one track here that shows just how good Race Horses can be when they put their minds to it, and closer ‘Marged Wedi Blino’, sung entirely in Welsh, once again places emphasis on the melody for a few minutes, before its dynamics soften and the song takes a detour, before finishing in the most unexpected way, as the band go all post-rock and let the guitars take centre stage. This track sums up the album brilliantly; throughout ‘Goodbye Falkenburg’, the quartet prove that they are quite versatile, writing brilliant pop songs with plenty of quirkiness included. The future looks bright for this lot, make no mistake