Forever Breathes the Lonely Word (Creation 1986)


You’ve got to have some chutzpah to adorn yourself with the singular moniker of Lawrence and then aim for a Vulcan mind meld with Tom Verlaine and Bob Dylan and try to make it big in an England enamored with the Smiths, the Jam and New Order. Of the three bands, the Smiths were the closest to being their kindred spirits as both bands relied heavily on frontmen well-versed in alienation and understated, but nimble guitarists who wrenched the maximum amount of emotion and expression out of each successive jangle. However, the script was flipped when Deebank walked out of the band and Lawrence enlisted organist Martin Duffy to be his new foil. You wouldn’t think an organist would be a suitable focal point in the indie scene of 80s England, but his addition resulted in their most straightforward, accessible and focused album in Forever Breathes the Lonely Word. What was once lighter than air gained some body and gravitas and provided a perfect canvas for Lawrence to indulge his infatuation with Dylan and Verlaine as Duffy jams out in his own mellow manner.

Where Morrissey was busy pondering his awkwardness in his own skin and a passive-aggressive relationship with love, Lawrence pursued a more philosophical, literary bent. He tosses off references to the Iliad, the Bible and the mythical isle of Avalon and portrays a series of nihilistic protagonists who aim for the heavens knowing full well that they will fall short of happiness. The opener “Rain of Crystal Spires” is most definitely one of their catchiest tunes, but the lyrics are devoted to the pursuit of lowering your expectations. It’s hapless hero chases beauty and perfection only to be shot down by his paramour and be told that he’s the kind of fellow that the sun will never shine upon. Instead of fighting it, he accepts his wayward fate and this embrace of misery and failure echoes throughout the album. Forever Breathes the Lonely Word is the most charming, intelligent, well-read gentleman in the room that never gets the girl because life has taught him too much about the nature of humanity. I guess that is why he includes a lovely ditty about how everyone worthy of his time is already six feet under. Lawrence was an idealist and the present was far too inferior to the angelic shine of what could have been in a perfect world. The imperfect one in which we all exist was one deflating bother. Thankfully, this conflict is what imbues this album with an epic grandeur even if it tackles that same lovesick themes as his peers. Everyone loves a misanthropic romantic. God knows I do.

Bill Ricchini

Ordinary Time


Bill Ricchini’s Ordinary time is an example of an artist who rolled the dice for instant success and failed. It is a shame since this album deserved a much larger audience than it received. Originally associated with West Philly’s Red Square and its Boyracer sponsored label, Bill Ricchini would’ve been better off here than signing to a misguided subsidiary of heavy metal label Megaforce entitled Transdreamer records. Red Square released tracks by obscure, but talented acts like Boyracer, the Cannanes, Rocketship, Beatnik Filmstars and the Snow Fairies. Instead he bailed for nationwide distribution for an album whose appeal wasn’t designed for mass consumption.

Ordinary Time is a flawed album, but one that has some transcendent moments as well. It isn’t hard to see why a label would be willing to bank on Ricchini’s homespun attempt to reconcile Pet Sounds, Brit-Pop and twee. The problem is that you really must be a bedroom genius to pull such a combo off and Ricchini was nothing of the sort. This sounds harsh, but it because I sort of knew the guy and and always felt that this album was unfocused, but kind of amazing. He pissed some folks off by bailing on Red Square for larger distribution and aimed high without really developing his sound further. He would have been better off on an established indie like K records or something smaller since there are a handful of classic indie-pop songs on here.

Ricchini draws from a dried-up well of the Zombies, Felt, Beach Boys and George Harrison, but creates magic from humble beginnings. Ricchini’s voice is familiar and soothing and his expressions of alienation and longing are delivered in the bittersweet way that the material demands. Why in the hell am I arguing for this album when I describe it as a mere 60s influenced pop album? Well, it is because half of this album stands as the best indie-pop of the past five years. I also find it tragic that these songs have gone unheard when another label could have made them more popular. Sometimes less is more.