Wearing your The Smiths influences on your sleeve can be a tricky thing for a band to pull off. Irrespective of the quality of the songs themselves, you never know if you’re going to catch a Morrissey acolyte in an accepting or dismissive mood (so mercurial!). But when it came to my first few listens to Unbloomed, the new LP from Johnny Aries (also of The Drums), it was love at first listen.
The opening title track weaves “The Boy With the Thorn In His Side” guitars into a “How Soon Is Now?” architecture. “Bodybag” is a mournful crooner pulled straight from a 1950s Hollywood fever dream, while “This Grave Is My Bed Tonight” bounces on a “This Charming Man” beat and bass line. You could have a field day playing spot-the-reference throughout, “Ambulette” and “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” for example, although Aries, an admitted Morrissey fan, says he owes some of his songwriting to Roy Orbison too.
“I saw an old lady being carried out an ambulette one day and It reminded me how lucky I am to have full use of the human body,” Aries tells me of that song. “This song is from her perspective, but it also resonates with me.” Sounds familiar. As does do his notes on “Bodybag” (“I think about my own mortality, and that of those around me a lot. It’s a sad song, because we all end up in one of those bags”), and “Human Nature” (“This is about assessing ones behavior, good or bad, but mostly bad. The conclusion is that we are all pigs.”
“It’s something of a parting shot towards England and my old life,” he’s said of the record, and his move from the UK to New York. “Some of the songs are me lamenting things I’ve done, but some are also about letting go and looking toward greener pastures.”
Unbloomed is out on August 26 on Frenchkiss. Aries performs at Pianos on that night.