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I feel as a ‘Wiganer’, I’m obliged to pay attention to the golden boys of the town’s contemporary indie obsession. ‘The Lathums’ have been knocking about for a few years now, and have gained quite a cult following in the North of England.
It feels strange that I grew up knowing people who were friends with the band members, and seeing adverts of their gigs at local pubs. Who knows, if they get big enough, my pitifully weak connection to the band will be a solid ice-breaker at a house party.
Unfortunately, since their debut release – ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ – a few weeks ago, I have long left the indie craze of my late teens; Neighbourhood Festival looking less and less appealing to me with each passing year.
The sounds of the Lathums is about as indie as you can get, wearing their influences of The Beatles, The Smiths, and The Jam on their thrift shop store sleeves.
It’s a sound I just can’t get into anymore, leaving a good chunk of this album enjoyable but bland.
This doesn’t mean the talent of these lads should be ignored; frontman Alex Moore has an anthemic voice with an enjoyable northern twinge – plus a surprisingly decent falsetto – and lead guitarist Scott Concepcion channels his inner Johnny Marr with the many guitar solos this album has to offer. The drums have their moments too but to my dismay as a bassist, my beloved instrument is often silenced through simple 4 bar chord progressions.
However, this is by no means an under-par album, and there are a handful of songs that stand out, with a couple showing hints of a band that could go onto better things.
The opener ‘Circles of Faith’ is a solid start with a catchy little guitar hook, and ‘I See Your Ghost’ is a much needed spooky tonal change, harking back to the Ska era with its rhythmic beats and decent bass line. ‘The Great Escape’ hits some anthemic heights in the chorus, and ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ is a pretty ray of northern sunshine. But the real standout was the closer, ‘The Redemption of Sonic Beauty’, which blew me away.
It has me hoping the band go down this balladry route.
‘Fight On’ is the main single from ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’, and it’s one of the first songs they ever released. This may be a bit of a hot take to any fans of The Lathums, but I think you can really tell. It still sounds cheap and rudimentary despite it being remastered, although the triumphant lyricism brought by Moore makes me believe this track would perform much better in a concert setting.
The rest of the album doesn’t fall into anything dislikeable – with the exception of ‘Artificial Screens’ with it’s cringe, surface level societal commentary verging on boomer territory – but they mostly sound frustratingly safe. Sonically there’s not much alteration, making some tracks feel like a cut copy of each other.
My critiques aside, I’m very happy that a small band from my hometown, little old Wigan, is making some waves in the indie scene; something not witnessed in the town since The Verve back in the 90s. I feel like the indie fanbase will warm to this record much more than me, and that’s great!
The band definitely deserve the slow but steady rise into the indie mainstream they seem to be receiving, and their love of northern culture and generosity to their hometown is heartwarming. They raised over £4000 for Wigan Athletic with a raffle of a ‘Holy Grail’ vinyl holding their cover of Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’, after the football club went into administration in 2020.
I hope the Lathums can develop their own sound in the future, taking the energy and style of ‘I See Your Ghost’ and ‘The Redemption of Sonic Beauty’ and creating something more. But at the same time, if this is the sound the fans want, then it wouldn’t be a crime to give them second helpings.