The Progressive Pet Shop Boys featuring vocalist Stu Nicholson and keyboard player Dean Baker of renowned Dorset progressive band Galahad have once again got together a second album under their duo title of Galahad Electric Company. The 2nd follows less than a year after the “When The Battle Is Over” album was released and features seven brand new songs written in a very productive four-week period in the Winter of 2020. The album titled “Soul Therapy” is a very personal and raw collection of songs written by Stu Nicholson; with no less than six of the tracks directly relating to the sad passing of his mother Maureen in November 2020 from Lymphoma cancer after a long, determined five year battle against the disease. Suitably sympathetic, the soundtracks and arrangements were provided as usual by the incredibly creative and empathetic Dean Baker.

Stu explains “the album’s subject matter is very much centered on strong often dark and extreme emotions felt in trying to deal with the grief of such a loss including those of anger, frustration, pain, and sorrow; along with more reflective feelings such as healing, acceptance, and hope for the future as well as fond memories of the past. The writing process also proved extremely cathartic and helped towards dealing with such a tumultuous and life-changing event. Several songs were left over from the “When The Battle Is Over” sessions from last year but several were written in a very short period between December 2020 and Spring 2021, which were centered around feelings felt from the loss of my Mum. As with the first lockdown album we sent ideas back and forth to each other and worked completely remotely on all the songs, a process which seems to work really well for us. Dean is so good musically and creatively, we just seem to feed off each other and have an instinctive understanding of each other and what does or doesn’t work”.

Galahad Electric Company

The Opening track “Therapy” is a song that pre-dates Stu’s Mother’s passing and is actually about using a computer to create as a kind of therapy, as with most songs though it could be about many things. Here the duo shows their continued chemistry with Dean creating upbeat rhythms along with some beautifully crafted keys, while Stu improvises the vocals. The understanding and trust between these two friends have become so strong during these recent times, that working remotely has become second nature to them. “All That Glitters” is a track that has an atmospheric dreamy space-like feel to it, as the vocals slowly guide you through the cascading electronic landscape. “Gone to Ground” is a bit more of an experimental track with Dean creating some very different electronica and at times there are even various voice changing attempts.

“Fluidity” the duo explain is an homage to Krautrock, especially Kraftwerk, and here you can hear Stu’s vocals treated with a vocoder effect that makes his German dialect sound like 1980’s Robot Metal Mickey. I feel there are a lot of 80’s influences in the track too, especially from the likes of Human League and Howard Jones where the younger Dean Baker was inspired to take up keyboards from listing to 80’s pioneering groups. Tracks like this are what I love about side projects like this; it would possibly never had of seen the light of day on a full electric Galahad album, with the time that the guys had begging they created this gem. It took me back to when I first purchased the Howard Jones “Human’s Lib” album and I could not stop listening to the track “Equality”

Track five “The Living Ghost” is just an absolute gem of a track that echoes what a fantastic vocalist Stu is; his velvet tones soothe us beautifully through this wondrous song, certainly one of the standout numbers on this collection. “Everywhere I Look” was written almost instantly after the first time Stu set foot in his parents’ house after his beloved Mum Maureen had passed away. Stu explains “Literally everywhere I looked reminded me of her and I quickly scribbled down all my thoughts and observations and the lyrics were written very quickly. The strangest thing was how quiet it all felt as Mum was never quiet, it was actually quite unnerving”. The layered vocals and the gentle ripples of rhythm portrays the loss and loneliness he felt as he took in all those memories.

“Monster in The Dark” is another track that could be interpreted in several different ways, it could easily be about Covid but it is actually about Cancer and what it does and how angry it makes people feel about its painful destruction. The track’s subject matter is matched with a heavier more industrial style and you can hear the painful frustration in the vocal delivery. This is also a Dalek-like delivery of hope stating that one day Cancer will be defeated……we will prevail!!

“When Darkness Comes” is a sweeping atmospheric piece of sorrow, very Gothic in some ways with slithers of light and hope – once the initial painful cloud of grief lifts it gives way to more positive thoughts. Dean delivers some harsher sounding industrial electronics over the top of some infectious harmonic vocals, with Stu pouring out his heart and soul with his own personal therapies.

Galahad Electric Company

I remember I once worked as stage manager at a festival wedding and I was in charge of the music that the bride and groom arrived on stage too. All I had to do was push play, it was not my own phone and at the vital moment the phone locked and I had not had the bright idea to ask for the code…..after an embarrassing delay I got it to work. The next track is about another horrendous mistake. “I Cannot Forgive You” is about how the funeral service of Maureen was messed up as the organisers forgot to play a certain track which is referenced as the Sultans and was actually a version of ‘Sultans of Swing’ by Stu’s brother’s old band ‘The Pack’ which they forgot to include in the service which, as you can imagine didn’t go down too well!. For this Dean and Stu head to another electronic pioneer Gary Numan for inspiration and as the middle finger on the booklet of the cd shows, there is no way that he can forgive a mistake such as this.

The penultimate song of this collection is “Muted Expectations”, anybody that has lost someone close will totally understand what angle this song is coming from. If you are not careful grief can consume you and the darkness can take over. The mourning process does take different routes for each individual and every day you should; as the song says, look for that chink of light that kicks off the healing process. The lyric goes “I Know at the Moment all I have are muted expectations, but I want to try flirtations with hope, new dreams, and new schemes”.

“A Belly Full of Stones” shows the combination of all the different emotions being felt throughout, that starts a little like a Leonard Cohen song with the deep-voiced vocal; coupled with a sinister music box sound. It’s as though Stu is deep in thought and looking at ways to move forward in this process and rounds off the album.

If you are expecting “When The Battle is Over” part two, you’ll be disappointed. It’s certainly the same two guys with the same fantastic abilities, but this time the music comes mostly from a totally different place and is delivered in their own very individual ways. From both the album sessions the duo has enough tracks for another Galahad Electric Company album, which I’m sure at some stage will see the light of day in the future.

Track-Listing
Therapy
All That Glitters
Gone to Ground
Fluidity
The Living Ghost
Everywhere I Look
Monster in the Dark
When Darkness Comes
I Cannot Forgive You
Muted Expectations
A Belly Full of Stones

The album is released on October 20th and can be purchased via the bands website or Bandcamp site.

Links
https://www.facebook.com/room801
https://www.galahadonline.com
https://galahad1.bandcamp.com

Words by David Chinery (Chinners).

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