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Songs of Love and Lust

Embedded within chief Awful Truth raconteur Mathew Gray’s lyrics is sincerity, soul-searching and, inevitably, the emotions we sometimes don’t want to face. Fittingly for his band’s name, Gray articulates the ironies and idiosyncrasies of our accepted norms, so Ele Batchelor’s melodeon and backing vocals by fellow local folkies Lucy and Virginia offer the cushion upon which Gray’s sordid and sorrowful tales often fall.

The bittersweet, humorous satire of ‘Romance Is Dead’ is musically reminiscent of the acoustic guitar line in ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ while calmly uttering drinking culture parodies you’d associate with Viz, rather than the Road Trip college rock chorals of Eels’ anthem. The quasi-moralistic soliloquies conjured through Gray’s glances towards the characters of an imagined room – “And if Romeo were here instead of knocking round Verona / He’d be in for a shock / He’d stand there fingering the lime stuck in his bottle of Corona / ‘Til it went three o’clock” – elevate him to an independent overseer not dissimilar to Road Trip’s mouse-baiting narrator. Undoubtedly, the more sensible reference points are the folk rock elders like Pentangle and Fairport Convention.

Some lilts seem personal, pitting Gray on set amid the song’s scenery, sometimes with the band’s doo-wop cushion (‘Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave’), at others without (‘First Love’, ‘Took Away Tomorrow’).

Across the 10 tracks, The Awful Truth explore country fayre (‘Fell In Love With Love’), spoken word (‘The Dance’) and hints of Bob Dylan-esque vocal inflections (‘Never Quite Loved You That Way’), always with that engaging camaraderie which has seen them marked in the phone books of many of Manchester’s venues and promoters.