This Practical Lovers article was written by Ben Kendall, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
We currently live in a world where technology and mass media dominate the airwaves; both do have their incredible amount of perks and positive contributions to society, and humanity itself. However for the most part; their flaws are the most exploited amongst the public (i.e. Media indirectly causing people not to think on any deeper level, bringing people further apart rather than closer etc.) Modern life runs at faster paces as the years go by, and people don’t have the time, or mainly, the interest to concern themselves with the theories, ideas, and the deeper meanings behind things in life. The practical sides of living are the only concerns in people, and ‘love’ is a prime example of this phenomenon.
Practical Lovers are a London-based band consisting of Jack Wiles (vocals and synthesizer) and Mark Connell (bass guitar) that resides in this frustration of love within the 21st century. Where deep and intimate connections are often difficult to find, and whatever the true meaning behind ‘romance’ was, seems to have been long forgotten, and swiftly replaced with fabricated marketing by big businesses, with their eyes only on the stacks of cash they’ll be receiving each Valentine’s Day.
‘Agony’ is the band’s debut album, and if one word could sum up the entire record, they’ve chosen the best suited one. Imagine if Joy Division were only Ian Curtis and Peter Hook, and on stage they were only armed with a microphone, a synthesizer, and a bass, and you get a rough idea on what the album sounds like. The album plays an exclusive brand of post-punk tinged electro-pop, featuring Connell’s sharp, dirty basslines, leading the melodies of the tracks, along with synth leads and 80’s style drum loops, all backing the haunting but candid vocals of Wiles.
The record is shrouded in heartache, despair and vexation, by the monotonous, bass voice and Morrissey-esque outcries of Wiles. Throughout the album you are not invited but forced, whether you like it or not, to become involved in a dark melancholic state that will firmly hit the joy out of the most jolliest of people. Even though failed relationships, passionate longing for love and strong feelings of angst are common topics in a lot of songwriting, there is something more particular about Practical Lovers.
Upon listening, it’s almost as if Wiles’ inner turmoil is profoundly felt underlying the music, acting as the foundation for every song to be built upon. While the music is heard, behind it is an unheard insight into what truly lies below the sounds, and even though some of the tracks are written in a more ‘upbeat’ pop-song formula, what lies beneath the surface is a major component in the somber tones of the album.
As well as expressions of the internal sorrows of Wiles, ‘Agony’ acts as an attack on contemporary life as we know it, maybe not as directly, but more powerfully than a good proportion of bands who constantly wear their radical socio-political philosophies on their sleeves. In a planet immensely more inhabited than of days gone by, and advancements only seeming to make people feel more alone than ever, Practical Lovers excellently capture this feeling of loneliness and struggle to find real companionship.
As Wiles sings his final line “they say romance is dead, but the ghost is living on and on and on in my head” in ‘Grave of Romance’, it leaves a depressive ringing but also a very slight glimmer of hope in times to come of a new ‘rebirth’.