After having delivered the wonderfully sprawling debut album ‘Pearls’ in various formats on various continents during 2018, The Gold Needles are now back with their sophomore effort. With ten short, sharp tracks, it is much less sprawling than the debut – but every bit as wonderful.
Although very much part of the psychedelia revivalist crowd around Fruits de Mer Records, their music is liberatingly free of psychedelic furniture; while there might be a byrdsian jangle here and there, there are no backwards sounds, sitars or kitchen sinks.
Instead, we get pure-hearted pop with the focus on the tone rather than the tinsel. The effect is one of timelessness, and a slightly rural feel that somehow makes me think of the Honeybus although The Gold Needles clearly have a more rhythmically oriented and heavier sound.
But of course, this is all very much rooted in the 1960s, a link that is made explicit by the inclusion of a couple of well chosen covers among the originals. It does make a lot of sense to do a track like ‘I’m Gonna Try’ by the Monkees, since the original is only available as a bonus track on the remastered edition of ‘The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees’, and it blends in here very naturally. There is also a cover of The Lemon Pipers’ ‘The Shoemaker of Leatherwear Square’ that while very nice, doesn’t fully live up to the original.
Whereas the songs penned by The Gold Needles themselves do not necessarily break a lot of new ground, they are very good indeed. In particular, songs like ‘Sunset Girl’, ‘Upon Our Skin’ and ‘This Autumn Road’ are imbued with melodic yearning and a sense of warmth that is difficult to resist. While they are simple enough to enjoy on first hearing, these songs grow the more you listen and are of that kind that become part of you rather than start to grate.
Turns out I was totally wrong about this, but the final song, ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ I thought of as a homage to David Bowie, in his character as Major Tom. After all, The Gold Needles are from Hull, the hometown of the Spiders From Mars. When I presented this idea to keyboardist Mark English, his reaction was “That never occurred to us […] I wish we’d been that clever!”
Just my imagination being ignited by the quality of the songwriting here, then. But while you can go wrong with your imagination, you can’t go wrong with the album.
Cool pop for hot summer nights!