Review – Fish on Friday – Black Rain by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Black Rain’ is the fifth full length album from Belgian/UK/US outfit Fish on Friday, although there was a compilation last year called ‘Initiation’ that included a non album track (Wings) but acted as a fine introduction to this little-known band.

I have been a follower of the band from hearing their first album – ‘Shoot the Moon’ – in 2010 which I Reviewed for DPRP and where I was highly impressed by their superior song writing abilities. Their second album ‘Airborne’ (2012) added Nick Beggs on bass and chapman stick which rounded the sound out more evenly.

Their third album ‘Godspeed’ was their first for the Esoteric label. This was released in 2014, their last full album was 2017’s ‘Quiet Life’ which, again, was another welcome set of songs. This release also introduced some longer songs that gave room for the group to stretch out more. It also introduced the world to the fabulous voice of Nick’s daughter Luka Beggs who sang on a track and who adds her vocals to four of the songs on the new release.

Once again, the artwork and sleeve are significantly tied into the themes of the album. As always these are impressive and impeccable, adding real value to the album.

The album is a real grower and will need several spins for it to click, which personally suits me as albums that you grow into tend to be those that have greater depth and resonance.

That is certainly true here, opener Life In Towns has some fabulous bass lines from Nick Beggs and some lovely guitar from Marty Townsend that add shade and colour to a song about the loneliness and impersonality that town life can often bring. The spoken part from Nick tells you much about how he feels about towns and how they smother him. The second track, and the albums longest at 8:13, is a song about living on the edge. On Murderous Island Highway Nick lays down some driving basslines to power the song along and there is also some quite ethereal sounding guitar lines which bring to mind the guitar work on David Gilmour, especially in the solo at the 4.00 minute mark. Marty is really stretching out here and Frank’s keyboards offer strong support to proceedings. The song is a slow burner which really grows the more (and louder) that you hear it, it is a strong, remarkable and imaginative piece of music.

Title track Black Rain is, again, about isolation and also frustration at how life has treated you. This sombre song is lifted by the trio of backing vocalists whose voices lift the song, especially in the chorus of “All you’re giving me is black rain…” . This song again is really impressive and well handled by all. Mad At The World opens with deep synths before switching to piano and taking on a quite strident tone. It deals with the disappointments one faces in life. The wonder here is how this band make such sad songs sound so impossibly joyous and so relevant and enticing and is in itself a real gift, such sad themes and yet such fabulous music. This really is top drawer stuff and, as a bonus, there is some very fluid sweet guitar from Marty to really ice the cake, as it were.

Letting Go of You features some lovely clarinet from Theo Travis, alongside some gentle acoustic guitar from Marty and a great vocal from Luka Beggs. It’s a song that tells us that we could call on every angel and is about letting go of someone that has gone and giving you hope to carry on. Angel of Mercy follows a similar theme, pleading that we are not made to wait too long for heavenly assistance, again another powerful song.

We’ve Come Undone is another stunner, opening with a distorted guitar chord and gentle piano before strong vocals give strident pace to the song. This track also has some powerful bass parts to it, the chorus is also very strong. The urgent pace continues throughout the song with some great dynamics that add a good punch to the music. Another stand out track from the band and with more excellent guitar adding to proceedings making it a fabulous song that ends on some stylish synth notes.

We Choose to be Happy is amore upbeat song both in its pace and in its lyrical content. The track is about choosing to be happy and not letting the past deter you, it’s a choice we can all make and it’s an uplifting, feel-good track. Trapped In Heaven is the penultimate track and this one is about being in love and how that love can trap you and imprison you so beware of such relationships. This song features one of Marty’s best solos in it too and features some great bass flourishes from Nick.

Final track Diamonds opens with keyboards and a sole vocal from Frank until Luka joins in on the chorus, her distinctive voice matching Franks in both pitch and intensity. The musicianship very impressive and the song ends with Luka asking ‘when you are getting me a kitten?’ Presumably it’s aimed at her father but brings this fabulous album to a fabulous finish.

This album really takes the band forward, crafting songs of value and emotional impact. It really satisfies and impresses and I heartily recommend this to all who like the more pop end of progressive rock, the music of the Alan Parson’s Project or simply good music as it offers all that and more.

Released 15th May 2020

Order from Cherry Red here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.