The Veils - "The Wishbone" (Troubles of the Brain)
Finn Andrews is a slow burner, and the repute of his band The Veils has moved forward in inches. He’s louche in an out-of-date way; the cover art here shows him in an Oxford shirt unbuttoned, gold chain dangling like some lost Bad Seed or Afghan Whig. Like those acts, The Veils’ polished rock doesn’t slot into subcategories easily. The music is lovely more often than it is aggressive, but even the prettiest songs have a leer to them. The harsher songs aren’t noisefests. Still, Andrews has a presence. He imbues his songs with a malevolence that scuffs the polish. It’s the difference between Leonard Cohen’s delivery of “Hallelujah,” and the umpteenth pop interpretation that bypasses the perverted undertones.
After eight years on Rough Trade, this EP is home recorded and self released. It’s a sketchbook record, but not the kind of sketchbook that’s raw tapes and exposed heart. It’s more like a covers record, charting out multiple styles. Andrews is pushing songwriting chops. Some of the references are obvious, like the T. Rex pastiche “Don’t Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice.” Marc Bolan romps have joined the “Be My Baby” rhythm as a mid-album cliché, but he does a good job with it. His voice has the right warble, but more importantly, he sends out the right mix of “put down” and “come on.” There’s also a Northern soul shuffle, and a breezy legato guitar build-up, like a Cure love song, making for the sunniest three-song stretch in this band’s discography.
There are more minor chords as it moves along, and the last tracks are rusted acoustic howl. It does arrive at the dark romance of his previous work -- “The Wishbone” works around a literally visceral image. But everything’s tighter, and with seven short songs, no particular personality ends up taking control. Up ‘til now, this has been a band fond of crescendos and going for the fifth verse. The dose of discipline suggests Andrews is figuring out a way around his main shortcoming -- his albums have plenty of stunners, but can be too much thunder and lightening for a sitting. This is the first time he hasn’t given us enough.