William the Conqueror - Excuse Me While I
Release Date: 28th July 2023
It has been a slow and steady burn with William the Conqueror but this latest album has turned up the intensity in a way I really wasn't expecting. According to the accompanying blurb, this album was written during the COVID pandemic while guitarist and singer Ruari Joseph was watching his wife Mandy battle away on the front line as a mental health social worker and trying to balance that against the futility of being a musician. So much so, in fact, that for a while Joseph became a care worker but, fortunately for us, he has realised what joy, context and recognition his music gives the world and so, ladies and gentlemen, theydees and gentlethems, we have 'Excuse Me While I Vanish'.
The album opens with former single 'The Puppet and the Puppeteer', chugging in to life like a train pulling out of a station at dusk ready to roar in to the night en route to adventure fueled by the coal of the blues. Another single, 'The Bruises', comes next with all the bombast and energy of an Embrace song before that familiar brogue of Joseph's vulnerable vocal puts an arm around your shoulder and leads you to a snug in the corner of the old pub in your mind. On 'Sheepskin Sleeve' the bass of Naomi Holmes pulses and nudges allowing the guitars to lurch and lech in equal measure like a whisky soaked poet trying to find someone to give him one more drink for the road.
'L.W.Y.' gently shimmers into life with reluctant but determined energy before delivering the devastatingly beautiful chorus line "I'm lost within you, I'm lost without you", as honest a declaration of love as ever I've heard. 'Somebody Else' brings us up to the half way mark with a song that wouldn't sound out of place in a late 90s LA lo-fi flick with the band romping around town in a soft-top all captured on an old super-8 - special mention to the whip-crack drum sound on this track too, bravo Harry Harding. There's a late-night slow dance vibe to 'Shots Fired From Heaven' which swoons and sways while occasionally erupting in to an uproarious blues jam with adding organ slathered over the top for good measure - Hozier, eat your heart out.
There's a nice country twang to the stomp and slide of 'The Tether', so much so that you can almost heart the sand under your boots and smell the warmth on the breeze as Joseph tells his story out on the stoop. I think 'Elsie Friend' is my favourite track on this album and I'm not sure why but it might be the McCartney-esque bass and vocal combination that gives this a familiar vulnerability which I find adorable. Penultimate song 'A Minute's Peace' is a near six minute beast but it is oh-so-worth your time as the organs, bass and drums build the mood before guitars and vocals add the flourish with Joseph's spoken-word approach adding a sense of the confessional to proceedings.
The album closes with 'In Your Arms' which feels like a goodbye and the choir chorus vocals brought lump to throat and tear to eye, I don't mind admitting that much. As always with William the Conqueror, this is an album full of raw, honest and emotive songs performed with consummate musicianship but no lack of feel in the performance. I feel like this album was written for all those who couldn't write it, sung for all those who can no longer sing and it will live for those who aren't with us any more. Pour one more out for the sadly departed and put the needle back to the start, there's a good chap.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/williamtheconquerormusic