Tilly Foulkes reviews the long-awaited lockdown album, Love No Less Than A Queen, from Pete Doherty represented alt-rock band, Trampolene.
Having already inspired a cult following thanks to touring with the likes of The Libertines and Liam Gallagher – and particularly their friendship with the former, whose fans have cradled and cherished them – Swansea alt-rock band Trampolene’s third album, Love No Less Than A Queen, has been both greatly anticipated and patiently waited for. Originally intended for release back in July, the album only made its way out into the world at the tail-end of summer, and fans have eagerly awaited the second record released by Peter Doherty’s new label, Strap Originals. It’s safe to say that fans won’t be disappointed.
Love No Less Than A Queen opens with the bold techno-slash-grunge ‘Gotta Do More Gotta Be More.’ An attention-grabbing intro, this track yanks you into Trampolene’s gritty world by the shoulders. The robotic, repetitive mantra – reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’ – sounds like something out of 1984, offering an accurate portrayal of working-class life and emotion experienced under capitalism with the never-ending need to out-do yourself. Silhouetted against screeching guitar, the chant builds in intensity until the drums kick in, twisting the song into a turbulent crash of sound. A sonic symbol of the chaos toiling the outside world these last eighteen months, the song encapsulates the juxtaposition of our individual experience throughout the pandemic – sitting inside, working – while a virus ravages the population and climate change demolishes the earth. The song ultimately implodes into an energetic explosion of rock, an apt welcome to the journey that is about to follow.
Vocalist Jack Jones, who also tours as a poet, thrives as a lyricist with his innate linguistic control readily apparent here. ‘The Misadventures of Lord Billy Bilo’ demonstrates his Rimbaud-like talent for surrealism; he documents absurd, nightmarish drug-induced visions and the physical feelings that accompany them – ‘I’m terrified now / Sweaty and lonely / I see spiders / The size of black Shetland ponies.’ Who wouldn’t be drawn into this dark world depicted in wide-eyed wonder? Jones’s whispered performance is seductive and enticing; sung as if he’s imparting a personal secret. The rhythm section – held together by Wayne Thomas on bass and Jay Bone on drums – furthers the exceptionality of this track. In harmony, the production’s lyrical and vocal focal point build a senseless and fascinating world intensified by a slack guitar melody and a steady drum pattern adding almost undetectable background texture.
‘No Love No Kisses’ is a juncture for breathing space; a gentle moment of pause that punctuates the carnage nicely. Beginning with a sample of children playing and laughing, it stretches into a romantic, summery indie-pop bop. With a persistent drum tempo to set the tender tone, the track eventually evolves into a joyful, harmonica-led instrumental. ‘Shoot The Lights’, equally, provides another breath of tranquillity with its spooky call-back to The Cure’s ‘A Forest’, offering an uncanny-turned-sweet reflection on time spent with a loved one in lockdown. Coupled with the anthemic moodiness of single ‘Oh Lover’, Love No Less Than A Queen certainly offers fuel for energetic gigs with chugging bass and sulky singing, fusing the gothic and the indie with charming success.
The mellow ‘Uncle Brian’s Abattoir’ once again spotlights Jones’s talent for poetic visuals. His vocals are soft and the word-play effortless. It features friend and collaborator Peter Doherty (yet another example of how rewarding their musical partnership is). It’s only natural that Doherty’s influence is present on the record; Jones has worked, written and toured with him for years (including collaborating on the first Strap Originals release, Peter Doherty & the Puta Madres). That the pair admire and inspire each other is indisputable. The danger always lurks in off-kilter musical relationships for the well-established artist to upstage the rising star, yet Doherty’s harrowing vocals uplift Jones’s performance without outshining it. It’s an important victory, one which proves that Trampolene are a solid enough unit to hold and maintain their own uniqueness.
Love No Less Than A Queen harmonises elegant spoken word, laidback beats and old-fashioned, thrashing guitar. Sonically, Trampolene have overtaken their previous work, while Jones is lyrically at his best. Their musical influences span multiple genres and they’ve excelled within this experimentation. The outcome is an album that is brilliant and transcendent of typical categorisation, the future certainly looks bright for this brilliant Welsh band who have truly come into themselves as musicians.
Love No Less Than A Queen from Trampolene is streaming on Spotify now.
Tilly Foulkes is a fiction and music writer currently studying English Literature at Liverpool John Moores University.