| * GET YOURSELF SOME MAXIMUM SORROW! WITH JO BEVAN'S LP TRACK-BY-TRACK! *
So on July 2nd 2021 Desperate Journalist released their frankly excellent (again) fourth album, called 'Maximum Sorrow!'. Covid ensured that the carefully-planned album launch instore at Routh Trade East, which was due to take place on the Friday of release, was shunted back to follow Boris's roadmap outta here and the new date is Wendesday July 28th.
On the eve of the instore we are taking the opportunity to give you singer Jo Bevan's highly personalised track-by-track breakdown of the 'Maximum Sorrow!' album, which gives an ultra-vivid insight to the Desperate Journalist creative process, like this...
This was the last song on the album to be written. I was dicking around at home one evening trying to write something myself for no real purpose and came up with this extremely basic chord progression, then "took it for a walk" (lol). When it finally became an actual song it felt fitting to start the album with something so chromatic and ruminatory and different to what we had done before. I'm quite proud of the harmonies here. Initially titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, before we changed it due to potential 90s Culture/Art Overload Syndrome.
A kitchen-sink melodrama which doesn't really leave the kitchen. I love Caz's evil Talking Heads drum beat here, and Rob's restrained/explosive guitar atmospherics - though the powerhouse is obviously "Handcramps" Simon on this. We wanted to do something which was all about texture and space and kind of Simple Minds-y, and lyrically it perversely made sense that it should all be about being stuck in a horrible house rather than calling from a mountaintop.
Probably the glammest song we've ever done, but it's still inevitably really fucking miserable - though I hope people can recognise the sarcasm. I've been in a few situations where I've been described as the girlfriend/friend with the "personality" - with its implied absence of anything else going for me, or worse, that I'm just awful and difficult. It's a widely prevalent and exhausting trope which is just another excuse to not bother respecting or being interested in the person (and it's usually a woman) in question as an actual human being. I was quite scared of releasing this in fact as it's probably the most baldly honest lyrically I've ever been, though pleasingly it seems to have resonated with people in the right way. As I've said elsewhere, it's fully sarcasm central for most of the song, but ends with an earnest list of insecurities because I've never been able to get through an argument without crying.
A song about wanting to make out during the apocalypse - and before anyone gets any funny ideas, the lyrics were written in 2019 before any of us had any idea of the Children of Men bio-dystopia we'd be living in in less than a year's time. The percussion on this was a particularly enjoyable part of recording; each of us did pretty much one particular beat of the bar on different instruments, recorded separately. The amount of shaky egg takes on this album would boggle the mind. I think the result works well as a nagging rumble with the rattly drums underneath the soft arpeggios and chords. And then the apocalypse happens, and it's loads of layers of glorious guitars - or is that the snogging? Aha.
FINE IN THE FAMILY
A yowl of frustration about musicians and scene-types who are relentlessly resistant to change. The drum machine sequence on this is probably my favourite bit (along with the very Holy Bible Manics riff) - how the phrase changes place in each section due to the awkward number of bars and interacts with Caz's typically machinelike drumming in a shifting way, enhancing the tension. I am also doing my best Julian Cope here, believe it or not.
This was the first song Rob wrote any music for for this record - I gave him a playlist of a few songs as reference including Dayvan Cowboy by Boards of Canada, Helpline Operator by The The, Fascinator by HTRK, etc, and he came up with this beautifully accurate midpoint between each but which also still sounded like us. It's one of my favourite chord progressions on the album. Lyrically it's about moving from a commuter belt town to the big city and being disillusioned, with a big mid-period-Mansun chorus, because that's what I was listening to around the time I moved from a commuter belt town to the big city and became disillusioned. The dual line guitar playing in the middle is just gorgeous. As is the shaky egg playing (not sure whose take the most prominent in the mix is, however - a mystery for the ages (but it's probably Caz)).
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED
A song about internet art as related to the Millennial search for self-worth. No, wait! I am so proud of this song, and how it sounds. It's a proper night-driving, neon-lit, cliched-hero-contemplates-his-complicated-masculinity cinematic expanse of a thing, the likes of which we have only just been able to properly realise now that we know what we're doing in the studio. The lyrics are loosely about Kevin Bewersdorf's artwork (he of the original Maximum Sorrow!), and other romantic conceptualist art, and how sad I am and stuff obviously - but if you aren't interested in that, just think of it as a Duran Duran-style abstract load of high-contrast Patrick Nagel noir melancholia and and hopefully you can still enjoy it.
Lyrically this is a good example of "praxis making perfect": it initially came out of a drunken scribbled rant I had about how much I hate Martin Amis (titled Martin Amis Hollywood Actor), then it blossomed into a longer drunken scribbled lyric about loads of other entitled and overrated (male) writers I hate, and now I've realised it's actually about Morrissey. So there we are. I particularly love the middle 8 here - I wanted it to be a bit like one of the most exciting songs of all time, If I Had a Soul by Comet Gain, and I think it sort of expresses some of what I love about that. Also, the deliberate Smithsy bathos of ending it on the bended "sad trombone" guitars makes me laugh/is as apt as anything.
I think this might be my personal favourite track on the album. Everyone plays everything so beautifully, and the spaces between every element recording and mix-wise are perfect. The chord progression is swoonsome. I sing it well. It's a fuck-you to a few people who have really hurt me and never taken any responsibility, and I think we've realised a lovely song out of that pain in a really poised way. It's very satisfying on a personal level, but it's also the most accomplished we've ever sounded as a band I think. Also I got to quote Momus at the end.
WHAT YOU'RE SCARED OF
This is probably the oddest song we've ever done. The idea was that it grooves along melancholically and builds tension before the gates of Hell open - it is trying to express the feeling of a traumatic memory unexpectedly hitting you like a ton of bricks, but in a pretty way (hopefully). Again I love the atmospherics and then heavy noisy stuff Rob does here - on this whole album he is really restrained, though there are loads of layers where there need to be. And then I go and spoil it all by going fully inside my own mind at the end.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
Bringing it back home with a song about being disillusioned with London, sort of. It's being in love with it but also being wearied by it, like an old friend you're possibly growing apart from but still have affection for because they were there for you at a bad time. I particularly love Simon's bassline here and how it often gestures up to interlink with the melody. Rob's sighing chords as well, like tired waves, or a well organised traffic management system on a ring road, or something