Album review: Littlemen - It’s A Beautiful Thing

LIttle Men album cover

LIttle Men album cover - Credit: Archant

Littlemen’s new incarnation certainly has the musical panache, but too often fails to land the killer punch.

A new-look line-up from the Bath-based roots-rockers sees songwriter Nick Allen also become the voice of the band, and several new members joining him and the Grammy Award-winning drummer and percussionist Rob Bryan for some timeless Americana in the Tom Petty mould.

Allen fronts the band from a wheelchair, having lost his mobility after a devastating motorcycle crash, and many of the tracks on the album see him open up about the experience.

The highlight is album opener Girl With The Red Blouse, a powerhouse performance that stands shoulder to shoulder with Petty’s Heartbreakers, proffering guitar solos, sax filigrees and an anthemic chorus written for the stadium.

Having set the bar high, though, the remaining songs struggle to match it.

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Despite its technically impressive, soaring guitar solos and grandiose arrangements, Moving On underwhelms with a rather flat delivery by Allen of lyrics lacking in poetic finesse, not helped by the song’s traipsing pace.

Obstacles chases a similar anthemic sweet spot with yet more widescreen guitar, backing singers and third-person narrative, while Walking finds Allen singing in the second person (“I pray to God to take me, if you could walk again”) over a breezy weave of warm strummed and noodling electric guitars.

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Feel The Heat ups the Americana ante, cramming in a roadside diner’s worth of musicians, plus some bouzouki and fiddle for afters; that it doesn’t burst at the seams halfway through is an achievement in itself.

Twist Of Fate becomes the skinny latte follow-up, a finger-picked acoustic guitar that finds Allen in vulnerable, reflective mood, although he should have resisted any temptation to stretch his voice beyond its natural register.

Shards of the band’s West Country origins shine through in Into The Sea and its refreshing, gently cantering pace with traditional fiddle, tambourine and brushed drums.

A skulking bass line underpins Cat Song, fulfilling the secret desire that, surely, so many of us harbour for a semi-gnarled rock song about how cats and people share their lives.

Littlemen’s new incarnation certainly has the musical panache, but too often fails to land the killer punch.

3/5 stars

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