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Sophia - People Are Like Seasons


Review: Jack Foley

I HAVE to confess, right off the bat, that I hadn't heard about Sophia until receiving this, his third album.

Described as 'Mogwai performing the songs of Coldplay', Sophia is, basically, former God Machine maestro, Robin Proper-Sheppard, and, according to the publicity surrounding People Are Like Seasons, marks the artist at his most 'broad-shouldered'.

The sound is less introverted and far more expansive than on earlier efforts, and a little more hopeful to boot.

Although the sadness that tinged much of his earlier work is still apparent in many of the guitar riffs, and melancholy lyrics, this isn't the sort of album that drags you down - rather, it forces you to sit up and take notice, with some quite blistering changes in tempo.

Proper-Sheppard is still, undoubtedly, haunted by the death of his former band-mate, Jimmy Fernandez, particularly during more pensive moments such as Desert Song No.2, which finds him asking, 'do you need someone, do you need a friend?' And later, 'someone to hold, that lets the light shine through'.

But there is also a more upbeat tone about things, marked by the return to the sort of dark, heavy rock that God Machine were best known for, and which effectively provokes comparisons with the likes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and, to a certain degree, White Light Motorcade, in the process.

There are even moments when Proper-Sheppard's tortured, but gentle, vocal style evokes comparisons with former Smashing Pumpkins' frontman, Billy Corgan, while some of the musical compositions, particularly during the slower tracks, does hint at Coldplay (although not as noticeably as the PR might suggest).

And as pensively beautiful as the seven-minute opus, Desert Song No.2 remains throughout, the album is certainly at its most striking during the louder moments, when the guitars come to the fore and Proper-Sheppard remembers past glories.

The grungy, scuzzed up Darkness (Another Shade In Your Black), for instance, is a terrifically brooding track, with a psychedelia-laced chorus, which screams out to be played loud; while If A Change Is Gonna Come is pure BRMC - all roaring guitars, gutsy attitude and hard-hitting rock anthem.

There are nods to Filter's Take A Picture in the happy-go-lucky, acoustic rock of Holidays Are Nice, when Proper-Sheppard finally sounds happy, as well as a bitingly sad feel to moments such as Swore To Myself, which features lyrics such as 'I swore to myself I'd never get lost again' and 'please, won't you let me come in?'

But then the changes in pace also serve it well, keeping the listener on their toes.

Even lead single and opening track, Oh My Love, sets things up nicely, possessing all the hallmarks of an indie-pop crossover, which really ought to get wider airplay than it's probably going to.

Mojo describes it as an exorcism, both artistically and personally, for its lead singer, and it certainly feels as though a great weight has been lifted.

People Are Like Seasons is, as its title suggests, an eclectic, ever-changing, collection of rock songs which can be as biting as a cold Winter's day, or as warming as the Summer sun.

Track listing:
1. Oh My Love
2. Swept Back
3. Fool
4. Desert Song No 2
5. Darkness (Another Shade In Your Black)
6. If A Change Is Gonna Come
7. Swore To Myself
8. Holidays Are Nice
9. I Left You
10. Another Trauma

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