Bradford – Bright Hours
Pop music is full of stories of unfulfilled promise, whether it’s due to tragedy, wasted potential or plain bad luck. The almost or briefly weres who came close to conquering the world but flickered rather than caught fire.
Once hailed by Morrissey as the heirs to The Smiths, but forgotten as indie tastes changed at the end of the 1980s, reformed Blackburn band Bradford prove that one of those tales can have a happy ending, as they release their first studio album in more than three decades: Bright Hours.
Predictably the group and frontman Ian H sound a little more grizzled than they did 30 years ago, with guitarist Ewan Butler also having left the jangly guitar sound that drew Smiths comparisons behind. That connection isn’t entirely severed, however, as Strangeways, Here We Come producer Stephen Street, who took the first iteration of Bradford under his wing, is now a full member.
Opener Like Water showcases a heavier sound, but it’s really with the driving riff of Down Faced Doll that things truly kick into gear: a sinister, swaggering track that proves the band still have what it takes to write songs that demand attention. Next, The Weightiness of Pointlessness unusually combines a reflective melancholy tone with banjo playing. It doesn’t quite come off but still piques the listener’s interest. My Wet Face sounds more radio friendly, an anthemic number that wouldn’t sound out of place from one of Britpop’s middleweights.
After the strange but compelling haziness of the electronica infused Present Day Array, it’s once again back to more conventional Bradford fare with ear worm This Week Has Made Me Weak and the record’s stand out, its title track. It’s a swelling, spiralling number that gives existing and new fans a glimpse of the group’s brief glory years.
Although the back end of Bright Hours doesn’t quite capture the attention like its middle section, it does contain the lovely little love song, Gave A Time, which manages tenderness without sounding cloying.
The album as a whole is a bit uneven – and for obvious reasons doesn’t capture the musical zeitgeist as Bradford once threatened to – but it’s something of a charming curiosity that at least shows why, as young men, they were once tipped as the next big thing.
Bright Hours is released on 19th February 2021. For further information or to order the album visit Bradford’s website here.
Watch the video for the single here: