Sitting contentedly alongside the A422, in darkest Worcestershire, lies the seemingly idyllic village of Inkberrow. However, if you scrape below the surface of the chocolate-box façade there must be an altogether gloomier and more sinister underbelly; which inspired the post-punk and gothic-folk experiments of former residents And Also the Trees.
The roots of the band were planted some forty years ago. The two Jones brothers Simon (vocals & lyrics) and Justin (guitar) are the perennial members; being joined latterly by Paul Hill (drums), Colin Ozanne (clarinet) and Grant Gordon (bass guitar). Together they have produced a cinematic, elegant and self-assuredly uncommercial album: The Bone Carver.
The romantic pre-occupation of the band is prevalent within the opening track (and the whole album). The poetic quality of the moment is savoured, In a bed in Yugoslavia, with a dreamy and hypnotic kiss of sonic notes leading you by the hand into the track. The breathless voice of Jones embraces the moment and the emotion, right up to the hilt: “And the bed was made of fire.” How is it possible to evoke Shakespeare’s “beast with two backs” without graphic images!
Beyond the Action and Reaction, the second track, is a sinister ballad that hints at the notion of the outsider. The opening bass is even louder and cacophonic than curtains being twitched back in Inkberrow. Is this idea of alienation the result of The Trees growing-up in an Austen-esque universe of double standards and mealy-mouthed judgement? Or have I allowed my A-level Lit analysis to sashay away with me?
The album, Bone Carver, is generous enough to allow you to partake in the narrative and conspiratorially, conclude your own interpretations.
Meandering and exciting The Girl who walks the City is so evocative of a fleeting time spent in a European City. The autoharp intro stirs memories of Parisian boulevards for me personally. The monochrome lyrics offer up a B&W Lenny Coen view of cobbled streets and the joy of getting lost, with the time to do so…“the rain falls and the streets glisten.” Sweet and comforting, melancholia is threaded through the album like a coal seam through out of date seaside rock.
Bern, or rather a very selective and idiosyncratic view of Bern in Switzerland – The Trees were never going to help the local Tourist board were they? – adorns the album’s sleeve and effortlessly captures the infused cinematic scope of the album. Just look at the triumphant gothic spire looming in the background.
In the foreground of the album is the incessant beauty of Last of the Larkspurs. With the bassline offering a plotline of its own and the drumming ensuring the rhythm section are represented as the pulse of the band; Justin Jones autoharp subtly offers a 60s crime caper signature to the track. Simon Jones, impressionistic lyrics sketch out a secret rendezvous in the dark – with only the “headlights across the wall” – to light the room. The only crime here is a crime of poisonous passion. Lest we forget, the statuesque plant known as the larkspur so prevalent in English cottage gardens…is poisonous.
After 40 years and 15 studio albums And Also The Trees are still ploughing their own furrow. The Bone Carver is at once quintessentially English as the Archers and as European as those cult B&W movies we professed to appreciate and understand at Uni. Cult has so many connotations and layered meanings when applied to the arts. However, cult is just what And Also The Trees are for their many, many devotees.
By: The Swilgate Scuttler