Album of the week
Album review: The Revival Hour, Scorpio Little Devil (Antiphon)
Devilishly good tunes as pride beats prejudice
John-Mark Lapham and DM Stith both grew up gay in stifling environments – Lapham in the right-wing Texas town of Abilene, Stith within a puritanical Wesleyanist cult –so there's a certain poetic justice in the success of their collaboration as The Revival Hour. Previously best known as a member of Manchester band The Earlies, Stith was hunting for a voice to front his new soundscapes, and when he came across Lapham's earlier work realised he need look no further. Following last year's "Clusterchord" EP, Scorpio Little Devil brings the project to fruition with a series of songs transmuting the collective struggle and desire of their upbringing into exotic musical creations.
Like John Grant, another Midwestern gay escapee, their music seethes with excitement at both the lush melodrama of Sixties pop icons like Dusty Springfield and Roy Orbison, and the electronic pioneers of the Eighties. At its simplest, "Copperhouse" surrounds Stith's demonic keening with a buzz-burr of cycling synths; at its most luxurious, "Hold Back" blends piano triplets, burring horns and sleek strings with Stith's ecstatic falsetto for a full symphonic-soul sweep of emotion.
Elsewhere, Stith's vocal is chased by an ungodly collusion of drums, bass, marimba and howling wind noise through "Run Away", while "I Swear I'm Clean" features his hysterical falsetto promise assailed by dubstep electro bass and cycling synth sequence, with guitar and organ deepening the darkness.
There's a sustained undercurrent throughout the album, of pressure meeting resistance, in tracks like the nightmarish "Eyed the Beast" and the gorgeous "Control", with its canvas of smeared strings, puttering celesta and skittering beats as the backdrop to Stith's protesting "struggle for my own control – I want out". But it's a situation viewed from other aspects too, as with the preacher portrayed in "Pyre", the dreamlike trilling piano and rasping sax soundtracking his pleas to "dump all your friends and come with me".
Fortunately for us, it's worked out the other way round, with friendship enabling beauty to rear its lovely head above the wall of prejudice.
Download: Hold Back; Control; I Swear I'm Clean
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