For ten years now, Bobby Wratten, front man of the London-based Trembling Blue Stars, has been composing startlingly intimate, deeply emotional love songs that deal with infatuation and obsession, longing and lust, rapture and regret. In spirit, his work recalls the youthful candor of seventies singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell as well as the melancholic romanticism of Nick Drake. In sound, however, his material is far more up to the minute, artfully incorporating elements of electronic dance music and computer-generated ambient touches.
The Seven Autumn Flowers, produced in collaboration with Saint Etienne engineer Ian Catt, is the sixth album from Trembling Blue Stars and its first disc of all-new material in three years. (TBS's last effort, A Certain Evening Light, was a compilation of singles, B-sides and rarities.) Bar/None’s North American edition contains four bonus tracks previously available as import-only B-sides. The album opens with backing vocalist Beth Arzy, an emigre from Southern California and lead singer of Aberdeen, taking the lead on "Helen Reddy," which describes the aural and emotional pull of an AM radio song that has traveled countless miles over the airwaves of some distant station. That's a familiar subject for Trembling Blue Stars: the band's 1996 debut single, the critically acclaimed "Abba on the Jukebox," commemorates the moment when a song becomes indelibly linked with a lover. The more recent "Doo Wop Music," released in the U.K. as a blue vinyl 7", explored the erotic possibilities of dancing close and slow to an old-fashioned rhythm (which TBS recreated via drum machines and scratchy samples).
TBS songs are often heartbreakingly specific. On The Seven Autumn Flowers, a girl stands poised before a jukebox, intently contemplating the ten plays she'll get for a dollar. A man at an airport terminal window turns his back on a departing plane, unable to watch his lover leave and, perhaps, a relationship end. A couple takes a respite from their troubles and the din of the city by dozing off side by side in the pastoral oasis of London's Kensington Gardens. While there is a brooding tone to the album, the overall mood is brighter and more hopeful than on prior discs - -a hint of the dawn that all the late-night darkness had promised at its end. The arrangements are simple but almost cinematically stirring, with bedroom instrumentation yielding big-screen effects.
Reviews"Peopled with starry-eyed lovers and draped in wistful melancholy, it brilliantly captures that lonely netherworld between love and loss." - Splendid "[Frontman Bobby} Wratten has been mining grace from despair since founding indie-jangle cult heroes the Field Mice in 1988; he is no closer to contentment on The Seven Autumn Flowers, the Stars' fifth album. But with this delicious melancholy, he is nearing perfection." - Rolling Stone