The Lost Cavalry

Three Cheers For The Undertaker

Imagine you are in a band who have just released a rather well received debut album and are soon to go on a tour of America that will include an appearance on a late night talk show in New York. But on the eve of all this you decide to walk away and start your own band instead without any guarantees you will ride that wave again. You’d have to be mad, right? Well that’s exactly what Mark West decided to do back in 2009 when he quit Fanfarlo, for whom he played guitar. But now as the singer and chief songwriter of his own band The Lost Cavalry put out a debut record of their own, that decision starts to make a lot more sense.

It probably fair to say that the usual ‘creative differences’ did not play much of a role in West’s departure from Fanfarlo, as The Lost Cavalry in many ways pick up where their LP Reservoir left off. The songs here are at times brooding and full of drama; at others they are in good spirits, hopeful and uplifting. While The Lost Cavalry are not necessarily bringing anything to the table that hasn’t been done before (early Arcade Fire and Beirut come to mind), it is West’s craft and delivery that see the band shine.

Those who have been paying attention over the past couple of years will know the impressively jingly ‘Snow City Radio’ and classically structured ‘Desert Tracks’ already from their release as singles. But it is the album’s opener ‘Secret Steps’ that really sets the tone with it’s mysterious storytelling, a regular feature of West’s thoughtful lyrics throughout. This shuffling folk song soon takes off along a more psychedelic path with the introduction of military drumming and strings, brass and chimes.

The closest things come to the debut of Fanfarlo is probably the lovely ‘Stars Are Ripe’. It’s a haunting piece of melancholic pop backed by Salvation Army trumpets and a willing choir of vocalists, that eventually sees West snap out of his gloom on a sweet, poignant finish.

These full band flourishes also contrast well with more minimal performances like on ‘Only Forward’ which is more a traditional folk-meets-medieval-minstrel tale of exploration at sea to the isle of Antillia. ‘Telescope’ is another chance for the singer to come to the fore while a moody tempo circles round and round, recalling Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s first outing.

The natural flow and melody of the chorus to ‘The Elephant of Castlebar Hill’ is certainly another high point as is ‘Fara Fara’, the kind of song to warm you up on the crispest of cold winter mornings. Which brings the point that while many of the themes take in adventures of the sea, the desert and the stars, these are tunes best served chilled with a real air of the winter months about them.

‘Mono’ closes out the record with West addressing his past and looking to his future. It’s the most direct he gets about leaving his old band, and while personal and contemplative, he finishes with a sense of self-assured determination to succeed in his new venture. "Plan from scratch again" he sings, hard work once again ahead of him, but The Lost Calvalry ripe to be discovered.

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