So much for hearing the last of Meursault. After a four year hiatus-slash-existential-crisis, the Edinburgh band released a new record Simple is Good late last year, a record we described as, “[the sound of a band] finding its feet once more, taking in many of the iterations of Meursault from their back catalogue to include downbeat lo-fi numbers, manic indie rock songs and straight up acoustic ballads”. In that piece, we also mentioned that Meursault weren’t stopping there, and had a full-length scheduled for early 2017. Well now we’ve had some time with the new album, we thought we’d write a few words about that one too.
I Will Kill Again is final confirmation (if any were needed) that Meursault are back. Things have gotten increasingly polished and less ramshackle since 2008’s Pissing On Bonfires / Kissing With Tongues, but this is undoubtedly the same band we fell in love with almost ten years ago. This is an album full of ghosts, both literal and metaphoric, from the disembodied voices that sometimes interrupt the broadcast, to Pennycook’s characters themselves, all coalescing to create a grand sense of melancholy.
‘Ellis Be Damned’ is a wonderfully simple example of what Meursault are all about, Pennycook’s vocals front and centre, delivering lyrics that are at once sincere and sardonic. When Pennycook sings, “Nobody knows how this ends / but it ends badly”, it could be read in an entirely existential way, especially when considering the ghost on the cover art, something akin to that creeping, self-effacing dread of our own demise that DeLillo explores in White Noise.
‘The Mill’ may be familiar to some, as it first appeared (in a different form) on Farewell, Bastard Mountain by, uh, Bastard Mountain, a supergroup that contained members of Meursault as well as those of Sparrow & the Workshop, Broken Records and Rob St. John. ‘Ode to Gremlin’, another track that feels like the distilled essence of Meursault, is shot through with a sense of melancholy, but also with a self-referential sense of deprecation, as Pennycook laments the over-use of sea metaphors in art by presenting one of his own (“The last thing the world needs now / is another song about the fucking sea”). It’s not hard to extend this feeling to how much of the liberal western world is feeling right now, the futility of half-hearted good intentions, the doomed sense of helplessness and hypocrisy.
‘Klopfgeist’ builds from strange garbled vocal samples, a metronome that sets the song on its tracks before and elegant piano line and soaring vocals. The song’s title is not some new high-pressing tactic out of Merseyside but the German word for poltergeist, another nod to the spirits that haunt the album. But in true Meursault fashion, things aren’t entirely sincere and po-faced, as the clever opening lines attest.
“Like Sinatra, Sinatra, Sinatra
to the underworld you are tied”
‘Oh Sarah’ is a very short runaway piano song, before the minimal and emotional indie rock of ‘Belle Amie’, the band playing in a collective whisper, the gentle growl of electric guitar snaking around negative space and Pennycook’s vocals which lament the absence of a loved one (“and it’s true that I still miss you / and it’s true that I’m still angry”). The track bursts into life in the last minute, a noisy crescendo of overspilled emotions, before the crackling ‘Gone, etc…’, a meditation on the hauntings of loved ones after they die (“Gone, you are gone / but that is not all you are”).
The title track is as intense as the title suggests, wired with a whining drone, a smattering of drums and the cried repeated refrain of “I will kill again”. It’s here that Pennycook really focuses on framing himself (as the songwriter) as the antagonist, what he describes to Drowned in Sound as, “ my attempt to redress the balance by confessing all of the terrible things that I’m likely to do but haven’t got around to yet. We’re all capable of terrible things, the trick is to avoid repetition.”
The final track, ‘A Walk in the Park’ is comparably calm and reflected, based on sombre piano and that cold-wind rawness of a lonely cello and vocals that are imbued with a very real sense of loss. Apparently inspired by a day spent hunting for a bench dedicated to Jim Henson in Central Park, it sees the narrator sitting on a bench, looking out at the view and reflecting on things done and gone. But despite this sense of sadness, it is perhaps the most hopeful song on the record, which admittedly isn’t saying much, but its final lines see a sense of advancement, a suggestion that the ghosts might finally be confined to the past, where they belong.
“And I am reminded
that this is a good life
and to enjoy it”
I Will Kill Again is more than just one if 2017’s standout albums, it’s a reminder of just how much we have missed Meursault, and what a treat it is to see them rise from the grave. It’s a worthy addition to their catalogue and shows that not even ten years in the music industry has taken away the plaintive and earnest emotion that has always been at the root of their work.
I Will Kill Again is out now on Song, By Toad Records and you can buy it via Bandcamp.