I have featured the endeavouring Scot once before, but this track is a whole different kettle, of curious fish.
is available later in the year; Steve Heron available at
Today’s theme will mostly centre around the nature of the creative …
diversity of many acts. One of the defining cores of much of my recent praise, has concerned diversity and quality control within music. A lot of my discourse has been levied at bands and artists who seem to be understand how important it is to keep moving upwards and onwards musically; when so many are concerned merely with lateral and narrow moves. I guess if you are an established act, and have been pounding the beat for some considerable time, there is less of a pressure to deviate or grow, creatively. Nor is there much of an emphasis placed on them, with regards to conforming or fitting into a predefined mould. The problem that new acts face is, that they are entering a market, which is ever-expanding and crowded. It becomes harder to really make a mark and get heard, unless you have something special to say. I have been rather angry as of late, as a lot of praise has been heaped onto certain solo artists in the charts. A great deal of bands, too are being heralded and placed onto plinths; made into false idols, simply because they can record a couple of great songs in a row. Bully for them, I guess, but unless you are capable of stringing together a collection of truly impressive albums and songs, then praise (feint or not), should be reserved. It is the new acts that are breaking through, plying their trade, and making small waves, that are the most fascinating. In the same way as they are the next generation of music talent, they have a hard time of distinguishing themselves. In recent months I have been privy to a great deal of diverse and invigorating acts; each of whom has offered something different, if not necessarily, unique. A lot of my shoulder-sagging has revolved around the fact that, although all of the acts have been adventurous, too many have strayed too closely to an existing band; offering comparative little originality. As a flip side, there has been a growing number coming through, whom promise much spice, flavour and strange mystique, which is hard not to be intoxicated by. Whether a stunning love song has been offered, or a strange and hardened beast has been born forth, the resultant aftershocks have restored my faith in the next wave of talent. I guess it is hard to anticipate whether it is the more unique acts that will garner the most attention and fandom in the future, or whether the fickle market will clasp to its bosom the acts of a less adventurous ken; it is hard to tell. It seems though, that in order to obtain and cement a worthy reputation, one has to first of all, be original and bold, and secondly, once those first seeds have been planted, you need to stay fresh and- to an extent- unpredictable.
In a previous review for his track ‘Picturesque’, I have provided some honest truth and fictional back alley analysis about Steve Heron. In terms of my consciousness and peripheral vision, he came seemingly out of nowhere. I had not heard too much about previous to reviewing that track, and was a little alarmed by this. I shall dispense of any cheap heron-related puns, less I dilute the potency of the artist. In the way that ‘Picturesque’ won me over by its catchiness, positivity and sharp and impressive lyrics, his back catalogue and previous songs have won me over by their diverse colours and consistency. The man behind the songs is a like-able and honest human; displaying openness, bold sentiments and directness that few others would dare posses. He is a young man, but is a multi-talented musician, a prolific songwriter, and quite a favourite amongst his home crowd. With comparisons being drawn with the likes of The Smiths and Television, there is an inherent authority and steely punch to the incredible songs. I have been most impressed by the sheer range of sounds and moods that have been established over the course of Steve’s career. In lieu of the new track being available (for a little while yet), Heron is an artist whom deserves a fervent investigation and wide-ranging peer review. There are not too many Scottish artists or bands, aside from the mainstream, that are familiar beyond the borders. There are plenty of them out there, but in the same way that there is a slight ignorance in society towards unfamiliar peoples and lands, in the music world, there is a reticence to embrace a certain foreign sound. The media has been responsible for a lot of the blase attitude and lack of awareness. Certain publications and sites have given key spotlights to music from the U.S., Australia, West Europe and Asia, but there is still a lot of neglect when it comes to our native talent. In previous posts I have stated how much quality and exciting music there is, currently emanating from Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford; so it is not entirely shocking that Scotland is also producing a great deal of stars. I hope that the media does focus attention beyond London and the southern extremes, as Heron is undeserving of suffering an ill-fated disregard.
It is within the opening few seconds, that the initial intrigue begins. ‘Saltwater’ is a song that breaks from expectation, and provides a delightful right-wing shift from the tones of ‘Picturesque’. Steve is being pretty mysterious and tight-lipped about future plans for the songs. Whilst perhaps not a potential single release, it seems that it is being earmarked as a potential soundtrack piece. The intro. lurks in the night, blood dripping from its fangs. There is ghostly mood, rushing wind, and an underlying sense, that something carnivorous will soon be knocking on your door. As the noise of sheer atmosphere abates, something more controlled, but no less mood-enhancing arrives. Sounding like a cross between ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ QOTSA-cum-Kings of Leon-esque grab, the building smoke, entices. There is a lot of originality in the initial bursts; whilst having some U.S. influences, the way that the intro. moves and proffers, is unlike anything I’ve heard for a little while. There are perhaps some shades of darker-edged Cocteau Twins, perhaps. There is a certain baroque romanticism to things as well, and I can well imagine this song at home sound-tracking a intelligent twisting action film (‘The Bourne Identity’ sort of thing); but it would be equally at home scoring a northern European indie drama or ‘Breaking Bad’-style masterpiece. The guitar is light and bubbles; the percussion keeps pace but never sprints ahead, and, combined with a majestic Gothic backing, it is a parable that soon reminds me of some of Radiohead’s glory. It could be a ‘OK Computer’ or ‘Kid A’ gem; it has that same atmosphere and consistency to it. It is when the vocal appears, that things break away from the tones of Thom Yorke, instead reminding me much more of something more northern; something less anxious. With its childhood verses of film in the camera, deft touches, and curious little scenes, the track has a lot of Heron’s trademark observations and vocal authority. Previously I have heard the romantic and fun-loving elements of Heron’s voice, where he has played the part of romantic, and ringleader; yet here, there is a sense of revocation and remembrance. It seems as though memories are being recalled, and a story is unfolding, that holds hard facts and emotional memories for our hero; a sense that there is a tear beneath the soul. In terms of comparable singers, there is as much Ryan Adams as there is The Smiths, in the mix. It is quite a dark hue of a vocal delivery, and one which embeds a sense of disquiet into your heart. When Heron sings: “Try and talk you round”, it is initially delivered with pace; before settling calmly, and showcases, not only a fine and memorable voice, but a keen intuit for effective and pertinent delivery. In that respect, Heron shares some D.N.A. with current-day The National. There is a distinct and local accent announced, which adds weight to proceedings. The song deals with trying to talk a woman into remaining in a relationship and remaining in the author’s life, but, no matter what is tried, “I know you won’t stay”. His subjective muse has been “hitting the bottle”, when it is said “You should be hitting the hay”. The verses are delivered with passion, but there is elongation and time taken to make sure the words are heard, and hit home. In a way there is a lot in common with the classic bands of the ’80s: a bit of Depeche Mode lurks in the languid longings. Heron has Morrissey’s theatrical edge, as well as his ability to turn a phrase and make even simplest playlets of love, sound essential and tortured. Into the final third, providence is given to the music itself; as the band combine to create sonic flames, and hazy sway. The electric guitar, at once a Van Halen-esque arpeggio (or the type of shredding skills displayed on Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’), that explodes like a firework, before disintegrating into the cold air; the embers simmer with muted sedition. This parable is repeated several times, promoting a tension and emotion that is quite fitting, given what has come before. Just as you think that we are repeating to fade, Heron is back up front, this time with a more impassioned and immediate vocal. He tells once more of his efforts to make his former love stay, and the resultant self-destruction that she unleashes; where as before there was a slight restraint, now there is some desperation and a sense that he has won the battle, but can never win the war…
Where this track will end up, is unsure at this point. As Steve himself has said, there are big plans for it, but nothing firmed up at this stage. He needn’t have any reservations or misgivings, as ‘Saltwater’ has such a qualitative edge to it, that it is wholly mobile; effectively able to fit in wherever it needs to go. Whether it is going to form part of a future album, or E.P., or soundtrack something quite spectacular, that has yet to be unveiled. It is, however, another sure-footed step by Heron, who remains as enigmatic, as he does the everyman. As easily as he can pen a track to get the crowds chanting, and unite the steeliest of hearts, he can as easily create a song that burns and aches with emotion and hidden pain. It highlights my point about new acts (or in this case, relatively new) whom are able to evolve constantly, without sacrificing quality or their identity. It is as important in 2013 to make a mark, as it would have been in 1965. The only difference that has unfolded in 48 years, is that so much has already been done, and the definition of ‘original’ and ‘daring’ has become more fungible and loose. In a crowded market, where there is a lot of a much of a muchness, and a depressing over-reliance on playing it safe and leaning on the ‘caution button’, it is frankly refreshing to hear an artist whom is blithely unconcerned with getting stuck in rush hour traffic; instead making his own route and way, to a more prosperous end. Listen to his previous efforts, and the range of motions and sounds on display, because you may not be expecting ‘Saltwater’. Wherever this track ends up, one thing is for sure:
It is going to be a hard song to top.