By J Howell
Watch the video for “Watchman” and download the song here.
Peggy Sue singer Katy Young recently said of Fossils And Other Phantoms that the main themes of the album are “absences and presences, and the emotional and physical beings that remain after various endings.” This is a break-up record, but fortunately, it’s a damn fine one.
Peggy Sue—composed of Young, co-singer/guitarist Rosa Slade, and drummer Olly Joyce—mine some raw emotional territory on Fossils, and it’s a rather melancholy record. In places, it’s reminiscent of, say, Beth Orton, but with a somewhat more aggressive point of view. While the subject matter may not exactly be fun, and thus some songs may not quite enjoyable as such, the presentation is admirably insightful and interesting.
There are moments, though, that manage some swagger even in such dour situations. For example, the opening song, “Long Division Blues,” follows “I couldn’t prove that I love you/ I couldn’t prove that I don’t” with an unexpected cha-cha-cha drum break and a singalong section that blurs where the guitar melody stops and the vocal melody begins. The next song, “Yo Mama,” may not have the same swagger, but it features what Peggy Sue seem best at: smart, incisive lyrics and an astounding sense of dynamics that propel the song from tense introspection to cathartic release.
“I Read It In The Paper” beautifully and painfully relates the messy feelings that follow an ending of a relationship of any kind, articulating well that bizarre sense of seismic change often coupled with stifling sameness. “Watchman” is an astute observation of the desperation of human behavior, of “always watching someone who is watching someone else,” capturing the inner conflict between wanting to be wanted and wanting to not need to be wanted in stark, smart, direct terms. While Peggy Sue delves into some heady, complex emotions, the music pushes the song forward, matching the wit of the lyrics and the striking vocal harmonies with brilliant, rhythmic, abrasive guitars, and astounding, inventive drumming.
Fossils And Other Phantoms is a great record, though taken as a whole, it can be overwhelmingly heavy at times, and could benefit from a little more light or hope to counterbalance the emotional weight of much the material. That said, it’s a testament to the band’s songwriting skill that it can be so affecting, and despite being a bit of a downer at times, the songs represent a reasonable reaction to struggling with endings in the post-everything world.
Fossils And Other Phantoms shows a lot of heart, a lot of honesty, and a lot of promise from Peggy Sue. While it’s not always pleasant, it could easily become a favorite.