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Anthony Reynolds
A Painter's Life Ronnie Angel Pope , July 25th, 2019 09:16

Anthony Reynolds' A Painter's Life offers a psychogeographical tour of Cardiff pubs and bus stops, finds Ronnie Angel Pope

I once had an American friend whose entire knowledge of London street names derived from the content of Robyn Hitchcock songs. The same could go for Anthony Reynolds and Cardiff street names (as well as those of various architectural features such as pubs and bus stops). One day, someone should construct an Anthony Reynolds psychogeographical bus window bingo, in tribute to the surefire consideration of the sites that he chooses to pinpoint. A catalogue of feats, places, and moments constructs itself across the album. “I was born reading my biography,” Reynolds sings on the record’s frank orchestral opener, a line that seems reflective of the album’s entire underlying motive. Like Elliot’s Prufrock, Reynolds has measured out his life in ‘spoons.

‘Have You Heard From Her Lately’ is Associates-esque in nature (Breakfast-era, in particular), though the strings aren’t more than a stone’s throw from Alexandre Desplat at times. However, ‘My Hometown’ and ‘Welsh in Parenthesis’ bring up ideas of supra-individualism, and the burden of difference is taken up by form as well as content. Throughout the course of the album, the vocals are pushed forward in the mix, in a manner both close and confessional, not unlike Jean Ferrrat or Serge Gainsbourg, mid-No.4 phase. Upon greeting, Reynolds plants you firmly in the territory of an empathetic ironic-croon, but before you could say, ‘fancy a Gauloise’, we are welcomed to hard-bastard synth district (see ‘My Hometown’). Albeit abstractly, Reynolds proves that the dialects of the bohemian and the bourgeois aren’t ever in simple opposition.

Reynolds’ A Painter’s Life skirts around pastiche, particularly in the Numan-oid track ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ which features the infamously niche Gary Le Strange, fictional creation of comedian Waen Shepherd. Despite the fact that the album includes contributions from the likes of Robert Dean (Japan) and Carl Bevan (60 ft Dolls), the presence of such a character as Le Strange toys with the idea that, after all, “an imitation of life hurts much less, and is way more cool”.

You might assume that someone who has written extensively on David Sylvian, or who has collaborated with Momus and Colin Wilson (however interesting) would be closer to crackpot autodidacticism. But you would be very wrong. It’s a sensitive and nuanced album. It’s relatable on a domestic scale, it’s listenable, and sometimes funny. The lacunae of instrumental space that occur amongst the intensity and eclecticism, particularly on tracks such as ‘Basquiat in Exile’, are affirming. In turn, this album demonstrates that if the ghost of Bryan Ferry’s Mamouna wasn’t so preoccupied with the malachite floor at Annabel’s on Berkley Square, he might perhaps have benefitted from hanging out behind the Tesco Metro (alluded to in ‘I’m Dying (to be born again)’, and experimenting with patterns of phrasing not a hair’s breadth away from Scott 3’s ‘Big Louise’. In short, if you’re after something literary, and very good, put down your occult pamphlets, and hop onto this one.