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When The Purple Emperor Spreads His Wings is the new double album from The Wave Pictures. The title means ‘spring’ - that day when all the butterflies burst into life. A new beginning. As songwriter, singer and guitarist David Tattersall explains: “There is always a strong sense of time and place in The Wave Pictures’ songs. It soon became natural to group the songs that I was writing by season. The album has 4 sides: one for each season. The songs ‘take place’ lyrically within that season. The album begins in Summer and ends in Spring, to represent the cycle of life.”
While some tracks were recorded before the pandemic, others were written by David during the enforced lockdown - working prolifically as ever, writing a song a day when no one could go out, and The Wave Pictures couldn’t play music together. On fire with inspiration, with the spirit and fearlessness of William Blake in mind, the result is a collection of songs that celebrate poetry and the album-as-album form itself. David says “The seasonal/annual track-listing relates specifically to the year we lost from our lives due to COVID. As is often the case in The Wave Pictures’ songs, a small moment in time gets drawn out over three minutes. This is because in memory a fleeting moment, a millisecond, can sometimes be stronger and more important than a whole year.”
Whether written pre or post lockdown, the songs on the album are an effort to make pop music, Wave Pictures style. When The Purple Emperor Spreads His Wings packs in a record number of songs under three minutes on a Wave Pictures release than ever before - and that’s no accident! But just because the songs are the length of classic smash hit singles, you still get a whole lot of Wave Pictures – Dave’s legendary guitar solos, acoustic picking and solid gold song-writing, plus country harp, mandolin, blues harmonica and more. All of the band, David, Franic Rozycki (bass) and Jonny ‘Huddersfield’ Helm’ (drums) love rock and roll, classic country, 70’s rock, soul and folk, and this album celebrates a little bit of all their musical loves, some rediscovered during extra lockdown listening time.
Indie legends Guided By Voices snippet pop song mania, in particular, showed how The Wave Pictures could take their classic influences and allow them to harness the power of pop more than ever before. The band entertained themselves playing Dave’s poetically inspired songs while thinking about all kinds of records they were listening to: Sun Rockabilly, African guitars, Neil Young country, and plenty of the sounds of the 60’s golden age of British music: the crazy fun of The Who and the creepiness of The Yardbirds. This is the perfect album for those people who still wonder who is better, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. The answer is really secret option C: The Wave Pictures!
After recording 2018’s two albums Brushes With Happiness and Look Inside Your Heart on reel to reel tape in the tiny Booze Cube in Stoke Newington, and in the case of Brushes, not rehearsing and then improvising the songs while recording them, the band returned to Rochester to record the new album at Ranscombe Studios. Both their 2016 album Bamboo Diner In The Rain and 2015’s collaborative effort Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon with Wild Billy Childish were recorded there, as well as David and Franic’s surf-garage-rock-super-group The Surfing Magazines, featuring Charles Watson of Slow Club, whose second album Badgers Of Wymeswold was released in 2021 and was recorded between sessions for The Wave Pictures own album. In contrast to The Wave Pictures’ aforementioned albums recorded quickly at The Booze Cube, When The Purple Emperor Spreads his Wings was recorded and mixed in ten days, although started in 2020 and not finished until after the final lockdown was lifted, it was actually recorded over an even longer period of about ten months.
Released in stages, the first full season to be made available from the album will be Autumn, available on December 10th. The season starts with ‘Samson’ a Yardbirds style psychedelic garage rocker, named after the Samson rolling tobacco, the strongest around and with a picture of a lion on the package. Inspired by Robert Bresson’s film Pickpocket, this song tells the story of a lonely man having a midlife crisis when he learns by telephone that his father has died.
‘This Heart Of Mine’ was the first single from the album, an autumnal country song about time travel, space travel, and memory, musically inspired by Neil Young.
Lead singer David Tattersall associates Autumn with the horrors of going back-to-school after the joyous nothingness of summer holiday. In ‘Douglas’, all the horrible playground routines play out - we are always just one move away from Lord of the Flies. Musically, this song was inspired by The Who.
Autumn is also a time for romance, as exemplified by ‘Jennifer’, musically reminiscent of Zimbabwean groups such as The Four Brothers and The Bhundu Boys, and sung by The Wave Pictures’ dreamy and romantic drummer, Jonny ‘’Huddersfield’’ Helm. The “dream a little dream” coda brings to mind Walt Disney’s Cinderella, when all the little cartoon birds flutter around her: that’s how romantic Jonny Helm is.
And finally the end of Autumn is upon us. With its double tracked vocals, squealing, ripping, lead guitar, ‘Smell The Ocean’ is set by the sea as winter approaches and the days are getting short. Played as if by Lou Reed backed by Crazy Horse.
Winter follows shortly.