August Wells are back with their third studio album ‘No More Operators’ which despite the deeply poignant themes throughout, is a gorgeous, strangely comforting album, putting the challenges of the human experience at it’s heart-aching core.
As always Ken Griffin’s gorgeous baritone overflows with sorrow and melancholy, and whilst his lyrics drip with pathos and empathy, there is still a place for his wry sense of humour. His partner John Rauchenberger provides highly polished musical arrangements, while the addition of eerily haunting backing vocals at times add a curious quality to the record.
The tone is set on the opening number Behind the Dying Sun with it’s weeping buildings, crying streets, yawning clouds and dying suns. While on Shape Up Rauchenberger’s beautiful piano line drives what is a stunning but achingly sorrowful paean to those times when all seems lost.
The Future Never Came is musically more upbeat, a prophetical track that serves as a treatise on life’s struggles and pain, illustrated through a series of vignettes all set to a superb combination of simple rhythms, Cajun-flavoured guitar and exquisitely understated brass. Charlie expands on that theme, with Griffin singing a heartbroken lament to broken promises, with the suggestion that “Life is a mess, that writes it’s own end….it’s own terrible end”.
The excellent That Living Feeling features the mantra “dream dream dream again, dance dance dance again, sing sing sing again” which could be an anthem of hope for what we are all striving to experience again someday. The desire for optimism continues on It’s Not A Journey with it’s gentle encouragement to stop trying to figure things out and living in our heads, but instead to actually live life. Which is somewhat echoed on Go To Work where we are counselled against the dangers of being trapped in never-changing routine.
The elegant string arrangement on Lift Me Up Into Your Light creates an enchanting aura for a song where love is seen as something that can rescue us, or least allow us to forget about the worries of the world for a little while, “let’s be two lovers like there’s no tomorrow”. Whilst On Your Way Right Out Of My Heart is a strangely uplifting song about the end of a relationship that advises us to appreciate that everything no matter how beautiful, has an end, so celebrate what once was, rather than dwelling unduly on that thing being no more.
The title track, No More Operators sees Griffin and Rauchenberger wrapping up proceedings with a jaunty lounge room jam which has a fantastic live feel to it, it’s a celebration of idiosyncratic togetherness, full of revelry and a perfect way to bring the album to a close.
With ‘No More Operators’ August Wells have produced an album which speaks to the delicate nature of the human experience, acknowledging the darkness and shadows, but giving us more than a glimpse of the light that we all need for the times we live in.