SINGLE REVIEW: Western Skies – The Pretty Visitors.

Western Skies artwork.

With the release of their third single – Western Skies, Brighton four-piece The Pretty Visitors continue to spring surprises. You don’t know when, or how ‘The Visitors’ will arrive, but when they turn up it’s always a enjoyable distraction.

To recap – The Pretty Visitors are Aaron Evans (guitar), Sam Bennett (bass), Connor Reid (Vocals), and Jack Rudland (drums). Before things got messy they were making waves on the south coast, filling good-sized venues in Portsmouth and Southampton and bagging support slots with bands of the calibre of Circa Waves. Their first release – Mystery Woman was a moody, swirly indie guitar standard. Their last single – Head In The Sand, had a much more visceral feel to it, driving drum beats, searing guitars and lyrics delivered in a stark, urgent, spoken style. Devo meets The Streets was my description at the time.

The Pretty Visitors.

Western Skies was recorded in London, at East Cote Studios, and according to singer Connor it’s about ‘small town life along with being late-twenties and not knowing what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be’. The song has a real dichotomy to it. It’s simultaneously about despondency and hope. Those western skies may be occluded now, but the sun will eventually shine through for some.

The song starts with a intriguing rhythm supplied by a combination of drum, cymbals, and claps. The song is built on this beat and Bennett’s underpinning bass riff. When Evans’ effect-laden guitar joins in, there is a bigger feel to this song than previous releases. It seems like The Pretty Visitors are aiming to create something with a more anthemic feel than any of their previous output. Aaron Evan’s twisting lead-guitar riffs tend to take a back seat, until he is allowed to unleash a couple of savage solos.

Connor Reid’s vocals come in and he sings plaintively about the start of his day – ‘I feel alright but then it starts to rise, it drowns my mind, a taste of something bitter’. Then Reid uses a really clever device – he talks. This achieves two really important things in the song. Firstly, by turning the verses into monologues, it makes Reid’s story feel more immediate, more real. Secondly, Reid can do away with all that messy meter and cadence stuff required when singing a lyric. This helps as he has a lot to say, a lot of ground to cover. In the three and a half minutes duration of the song Reid covers housing issues, cuts in public services, mammoth tuition fees, and people smuggling.

However, it’s not all is darkness. There are chinks of cobalt blue poking through those grey clouds. At the end of verses reflecting personal issues, and the obstacles facing those more oppressed groups in society, Reid reminds us it doesn’t have to stay this way for everyone – ‘Some day everything’s gonna be different, someday they’ll paint their masterpiece’.

The Pretty Visitors are still sculpting on their own artistic future, and there’s no dichotomy there. I see only hope and clear, blue skies on the horizon. Western Skies is available from your usual provider from 12/03/2021.

Ian Dunphy.

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