Review: Let's Eat Grandma - Two Ribbons

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By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement

The pair's latest album is a profound meditation of love, loss, memory and friendship.

After listening to 'Levitatation' from their latest album, the often quoted phrase ‘The darkest hour is right before the dawn’ comes to mind. In this track where the narrator is experiencing a complete breakdown on the bathroom floor one would expect the music to be sombre, lugubrious and intense. But on the contrary it is curiously bright and uplifting: a neatly spaced clapping from a drum machine is graced with a synth bass line that is beautifully sweetened with a synth pop riff. The lyrics are full of optimism without the slightest whiff of self-pity: “ I’m picking up the pieces from the bathroom floor….I still believe that I haven’t met the best days of my life”.

Let’s Eat Grandma - the Norwich-based experimental/synth pop duo, comprised of childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, made their seismic entry into the world of music with their acclaimed debut album, ‘I, Gemini’. The appeal of the album was such that it was inconceivable at the time that two naïve teenagers could pull off such a feat of chutzpah without a music mogul pulling the strings from the background. But there were no mysterious Tin Pan Alley songwriters - they wrote it all. Walton and Hollingworth have been consummate songwriters with a rare ability to capture moods beyond the idiom of mudslinging at the contemptible ex-lovers. In their current album, ‘Two Ribbons’ the pair refrain from power ballads.

Oscar Wilde in an 1889 essay titled The Decay of Lying opined ‘Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life’, but in the case of Walton and Hollingworth, the opposite is true to a remarkable degree. As friends they were inseparable. They used to finish each other’s sentences, joking that they were telepathic. But fissures in their friendship began to appear after their second album ‘I’m All Ears’. There was no huge bust-up, but they lost the spark of their friendship and began to grow apart. Walton moved to London while Hollingworth’s boyfriend, the rising music star, Billy Clayton died at the age of 22 from a rare form of cancer. They canceled their US tour. The latest album was nothing short of a compilation of letters in an attempt to reconcile and rekindle their friendship. The end result certainly does not disappoint.

The album opens with the effervescent number  ‘Happy New Year’ which emulates fireworks with an insistent pop synth motif: ‘Sparks in the sky until we meet the sunrise… Because you know you’ll always be my best friend and look what I have with you.’

Standout track ‘Watching You Go’ has the feel of an 80s disco anthem whose upbeat tempo puts a veneer on their heart-wrenching parting: ‘There’s this rage trapped inside…. But I was watching you go’, while ‘Hall of Mirrors’ has a 90s ambience with an unmistakable nod to pop queens such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue. The album also features two short instrumental pieces of beguiling serenity. The instrumental track ‘Half Light’ is akin to a shaft of light that comes lancing through the dense darkness, while the other instrumental piece, ‘In the Cemetery’ has an ethereal beauty embellished with bird songs, flutes and hypnotic synth-pop arpeggios.

The penultimate track of the album, ‘…Strange Conversation’  has a quasi-religious ambience with its dreamy guitar strumming and references to being ‘at the alter’, waking up in a ‘pool of light’ and ‘confessing’. This search for consolation amid bereavement is heightened by the heartfelt singing.

The album's title track ‘Two Ribbons’ is a composition of delight with its rich allegory, simple but evocative guitar strumming and unfiltered vocals. It is undoubtedly an edifice to their friendship, ‘I wanna find the answer, I just want to be your best friend’, before accepting that ‘like two ribbons’ they’re ‘still woven, although we are fraying.’

They have built up a loyal fan base over the years and their appearance at the iconic Bristol venue, Thekla in October is not to be missed. It is guaranteed to introduce you to a cornucopia of rare delights. Tickets are available here.

Featured image: Transgressive Records


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