The Wigan band have delivered an addictively jangly, indie-pop record that justifies its status as one of 2021's most anticipated indie albums.
Back in January, as I was looking forward to new music in the year ahead, a debut album by The Lathums was very much high up in my most anticipated for 2021. Certainly for a new band, anyway.
Singles like ‘Fight On’ and ‘I See Your Ghost’ had become two of my most listened to tracks of 2020 and there was a certain eagerness to establish if the Wigan band could back up their early promise with a full body of work.
The Lathums have been the talk of the British guitar scene for the best part of two years now, a word of mouth buzz spreading through the indie community before being bigged up by publications like NME and The Guardian. The reason for this acclaim is because the music feels fresh, yet also very familiar. They put their stamp on a classic British indie rock sound and their songs are just so darn addictive.
Part of their draw is also down to their part everyman and part outsider appeal. Just four normal guys playing music they love and having fun doing so. Such an aesthetic is particularly strong in their music videos, with ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ and ‘Oh My Love’ being filmed in local markets and cafes alike, the lads possessing a particularly likeable and approachable demeanour. Somehow, in 2021, this seems radical!
Fronted by self-confessed loner Alex Moore and formed at a local music college, The Lathums have a look and sound of a band without pretension. They provide heart-warming, jangly indie-pop anthems that are performed so eloquently for one so young.
Back in Summer 2019, The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess got the ball rolling on the hype (or at least pushed it on several gears) when he began promoting them. Over the coming months, this saw their popularity grow to unexpected levels. Paul Weller and Elton John have since sung their praises, contributing to a hype you wouldn't at first expect for a group from such an unfashionable Northern town (sorry, Wigan!).
A working-class Northern English band with a keen awareness of Britain's indie heritage, possessing shades of The Smiths and Arctic Monkeys...it’s no wonder so many have jumped on board the hype. Earlier in the year, they were nominated on BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2021 list, which thus provided an expectation to what they had in store for this year.
After they entered the studio with The Coral frontman James Skelly in late 2020, the stage was then set for them to deliver one of the debut records of the year. Thankfully they have done so with a certain grace you perhaps wouldn’t expect at first glance.
The last impression of How Beautiful Life Can Be is just how delightful a listen it turns out to be, with a range of remastered old favourites providing joy and optimism throughout. ‘Circles of Faith’ is as intense as the album gets and opens proceedings, whilst tracks like ‘I’ll Get By’ and ‘Oh My Love’ are right out The Smiths manual, seemingly cheery numbers about overcoming struggles.
A re-recorded version of ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ sounds fantastic four tracks in, an uplifting song written during lockdown that encourages listeners to appreciate the simple things in life. The spooky and ska-inspired, ‘I See Your Ghost’ mixes things up perfectly again, with Alex revealing his trauma following a personal loss (“At night, I see your ghost / You’re gone but you feel so close / I see your ghost / I see your ghost”).
Early single ‘The Great Escape’ is the only remastered that track that has perhaps lost something from before in the recording process. Still a pleasant number, the backing harmonies don’t leave the same lasting impression as the 2019 version.
However, remastering does the business for the penultimate track ‘Artificial Screens’. It takes a break from their jangly sound for a euphoric track with a more classic rock influence. You’ll hear a distinct nod to the guitar work of John Squire (The Stone Roses), which can't help but get your neck hairs to rise. It's an absolutely epic track with echoes of the early 1990s.
If the second last track felt like a left turn, just wait ‘til you hear the finale. ‘The Redemption Of Sonic Beauty’ reveals The Lathums in a new light. Part piano ballad, part classic rock, Alex Moore is at his most powerful vocally and influences of Queen and John Lennon shine right through.
Whilst there may be some who scoff at the vagueness of some of Alex Moore’s lyricism, sometimes you need to look more at how an album makes you feel to judge its impact. In this case, How Beautiful Life Can Be is packed with optimism and heart-warming words, referencing feel-good classic indie sounds without ever coming across as a tribute act.
At 38 minutes long, it feels like the perfect length, and it had me clicking that replay button soon after completion!
Nice guys don’t always need to finish last and The Lathums definitely are proof of this. With the secret now out and the indie cult band moving closer to the mainstream with this release, it's clear they're only going to get bigger.