Amelia’s Magazine | Left With Pictures – Beyond Our Means – An Album Review


Imagine “The Toby and Stu Show”. Stu plays the wide-eyed earnest young fella around town He flirts with girls, analyses his flirtations with girls, works as a music teacher, hides from reality in the glow of his pupils and a little coke, seeks adventure and love, and muses the passing of planes overhead, destined for places he’ll never go. He’s romantic, but charismatic with it. Stimpy, in some ways, you might say.
Toby is very different. He’s the cynical introverted Ren, with a penchant for nostalgia and dissecting the failings of himself and others.
And so it goes. “Our imaginary meetings are over cigarettes and wine, I think we should have met in California in ’69″ shrugs Stu, winking at a pretty filly with tentative seduction. Toby follows up, lamenting his inability to be cool; “I’m sick to my soul by an envy deep within, cos the gang collect old vinyl and they play the mandolin.”
It wouldn’t work on TV, let’s face it, but luckily, the nice fellas down at Left With Pictures have packaged themselves up not on the Paramount Comedy channel, but on Organ Grinder Records (the same label that gloriously brought us The Mules).

And they know exactly what they’re doing. These are chaps who could probably finish Beethoven’s Unfinished without upsetting anyone, yet they are putting their divine knowledge in the service of the best folk pop ditties you ever heard. The first six tracks on this album are so heavenly you could almost quit your job to spend more time with them. And so very hummable. You find yourself strolling around schizophrenically switching from your Stu impression to your Toby impression whilst trying to hold the idea of the magic chord there in your head. All day long!
Comparisons are tricky. At times it’s like Donovan guiding Noel Coward supporting Ray Davies encouraging Jim O’Rourke flirting with Beth Orton pulling Jeremy Warmsley a wedgie, but that doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps it’s because Left With Pictures are concerned with song writing in the purest sense. Other bands can fret about getting their dynamite sound. This band will just assemble the chords and the melodies and the anecdotes that belong to the song. Bless them.


The production and arrangement are faultless. Toby’s piano and Stu’s guitar and banjo are nice and clear. A wizard named Rob pops in to play some beautiful violin support. And there are a couple of other gentlemen responsible for some drumming and French Horn. All of it sits beautifully with quite the clarity of Feist, but more bare (gosh, there’s a pleasant thought).
After the lively hum-along-fest of the first half, things take a few turns. “Yours, Tom Mclean” is the most bizarre of them, a sort of a showtune (enter Toby, stage left, trilby cocked, repeatedly tossing a coin, spotlight following him across the stage as he moans tragically at a former bandmate, slagging off Leicester and confessing that he sees his talent as a curse as he goes). “The Flight Paths” is a delicate gentle masterpiece, and is well placed as a kind of mountain peak of simplistic beauty. It is then followed by the title track, which is Stu’s ode to debt. It’s almost a celebration of debt, in fact, building in energy and joyousness, until at the end it’s all singalong and flute like it’s the freakin’ Age Of Aquarius. Got to go and check that out live – clapping my hands in the air for my overdraft.
Anyway, I’ve done some calculations, and it turns out this is 87% perfect, and the rest isn’t far behind. For your own sake, get it.

The album is available now.

Left With Pictures are playing at Eat Your Own Ears at The Lexington with Cass McCombs on November 30th.

Images by Alicia Canter

Categories ,Age Of Aquarius, ,album, ,Beth Orton, ,Cass McCombs, ,Donovan, ,Eat Your Own Ears, ,Feist, ,Jeremy Warmsley, ,Jim O’Rourke, ,Lexington, ,Life With Pictures, ,music, ,Noel Coward, ,Organ Grinder Records, ,Ray Davies, ,review, ,The Mules

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