In May 1979, Paul Morley slated The Cure's "Three Imaginary Boys" with such pretentious savagery (Google it and puke) that Robert Smith took the next available opportunity, a Peel Session, to bite back, composing "A Desperate Journalist" about Morley, before Twitter burns even existed. Nearly four decades on and alt. goth, post-punk, 'angry janglers', Desperate Journalist, bring a similar brusqueness to bear on their second album, as well as a weighty nod to the glittering gloom of sombre Bob and his Munsters of rock.
Foremost is Jo Bevan, vocalist and lyricist, self-proclaimed 'emotional romantic nightmare', who acknowledges that 'all the songs are borne of that anxiety'. So, to an extent, "Grow Up" is a tongue-in-cheek reference to her wish to be over such soul-destroying crapola by now (NB - it never stops, missus), and partly a reference to the songs' subject matter - experiences that shape young adulthood. With the bite of Siouxsie Sioux and the richness of the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser, Bevan's voice screams epic disaffection. The band brings mighty substance, Rob Hardy's 12-string Rickenbacker, Simon Drowner's bass and Caz Hellbent's drums providing soundscapes with depth and breadth worthy of "Disintegration".
Opener "Hollow" promotes the healing solace of remote places, the chorus surging tidally like the catharsis of a good cry. Any neurosis that grips and undermines is present in "All Over", like 'the gunshot that echoes down your hall'. "Be Kind" opens with a self-deprecating Sundays steadiness - 'This place is such a non-event;/ They are so loud and I am so ineloquent', before crescendoing into the fuzzed, bleeding-heart chorus, with its self-reproach and flawed determination to 'be kind'. Album closer, "Radiating" is a haunted torch song of undeclared, unrequited love. Compellingly, akin to Martin Rossiter in Gene's mid-90s prime, Bevan emotionally eviscerates herself over Rob's stark piano line.
Woe betide any budding Morley who thinks it's just hyperbolic whinging. We've all been out with, or been, a tosser at some point in our lives, so "Why Are You So Boring?" transcends 'Kevin & Perry' stroppings. Instead it identifies that archetype (let's admit it - mostly adult males) that takes too many 'grown-up' years to jettison gittish adolescent bluster. The subsequent track, "Your Genius", which sounds similarly like a rejection of unwholesome infatuation - 'Nihilistic-tragic's a good story/ And it used to hold a fascination for me' - concedes late on that the fascination is permanent. "Resolution" gives us the exhilarating, transient highs and banal lows of New Year's Eve with the ambivalent, '5,4,3,2,1 - it's over'.
With lyrical composure and glorious musical arrangements, Desperate Journalist are fluent in the universal language of catastrophic relationships and crippling self-doubt. They are definitely not available for children's parties.