An album of inner conflict turned outwards into torch weilding anthems
Following on from the superbly bitter and miserable “Everyone Thinks I Dodged A Bullet” in 2016, “Next Time” see’s Greg Laswell taking stock of where he is in life whilst sonically exploring how surviving the day whilst turning over a new leaf would sound like. If you loved his previous work, you’ll love this too as it is his most anthemic and biggest sounding album to date – and is an album of two halves. The first half is a rockier guitar and synth saturated alt-rock affair, with the second half returning to a more piano-rock affair.
Single “Royal Empress” kicks things off with huge drums, big chords, reflective lyrics and thoughts of trying to push whatever catastrophe you’ve survived. The lyrics and the percussive smashes of all the instruments signal that bombshells of life raining down on you as you keep plugging on. Paired with Greg Laswell’s weary but wisdom filled yelps and moans, you feel equally like rooting on for survival in the epic choruses whilst assessing the collateral damage in the verses. Production wise, the title track shows the switch in tone for this album. “Next Time” places more of an equal emphasis between guitar, synth, drums and vocal in the mix whereas last time out over synth and keyboard work took a wider sound palette. Reverb is a huge part of the albums sound too – particularly with the drums and the sprawling uprising ballad “Super Moon” pays tribute to that. A simple piano chord riff spills out into a track that reminds me of the latest material from electronica duo Lamb in part. It’s a superb track and seems to signify a bit of a tonal shift in the album towards something more positive and uplifting afterwards.
“Choice in the Matter” kicks off this twist in tone. It’s catchy riffs and chorus alongside its bubbly keyboard sounds feels like a step towards enjoying a brighter side again. The synths shimmer. The piano is bright. The chords are tentative but reaching upwards and even the vocals have more clarity to them. It’s a fabulous track because it’s not full beans happy – but it’s a musical olive branch. “I Will Not Resign” is an anthem to the stubborn and the steadfast. Repeating the song’s title mantra over and over to slithering piano and strings whilst the huge reverberating drums march onwards – it’s the kind of undead march you can get behind and shout along with. Greg never needs to get shouty or angsty himself though – it’s his mumbly downcast Leonard Cohen-esque voice that holds all the drama around him together and grounds it. Even when things are lighter and serene like the flippant “What Do I Know” with its strings, pianos and synths melting together for a grungy chill out track – that voice makes you feel every word. “Where You Find Me” acts as a monologue bridge between the two halves. It’s a synth and voice piece that sounds like it could be placed straight into any baddie’s musical number where they sing of their motivations and you have to feel a bit for them.
The final third of the album turns down the guitars a little and turns up the piano. “For You” and “Do Better” are both stonking track – they starting off gently and then ramping up to give simple but effective and very catchy choruses. “Never Want To You Again” does the same but sticks firmly in the angry ballad genre. It’s what makes the album really fascinating because there are moments of green shoots of positivity starting to bloom, acknowledgement for doing better and choosing better next time around – but there’s an underlying bitterness to it all too. It’s an album where you can tap into whichever feeling your gelling with on that day and rock out to repetitive mantras that become each songs chorus – and usually, its outro too – and get it off or on your chest. The album closes with a beautiful mainly piano and vocal rendition of Next Time. It frames the sadness and hope in a more delicate light and shows that stripped down, Greg Laswell can still utterly captivate you.
Next Time is another superb album crammed full of emotions and feelings. Unlike his last album, this one has inner conflict and tentative steps towards starting anew. You’ll rage war, you’ll cuddle the pillow, you’ll down the glass of wine and you’ll gain resolve – but most of all you’ll have 11 new songs to cherish. Greg Laswell has done it again.