London’s Desperate Journalist release their third album ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ (Fierce Panda) on February 22nd. From their self-titled debut (2014) to ‘Grow Up’ (2017), the progress in quality was stark. Can they do it again on what is, loosely a concept album about sing Jo Bevan’s obsession with artist Bas Jan Arder.
Despite the high concept, their pop instincts remain, and, in the case of ‘Jonatan’ and ‘Cedars’ have significantly improved. ‘Jonatan’ is The Cult via Wolf Alice’s shoegaze tendencies. It creates a joyous sonic to a tragic tale. Bevan lost her friend Kasper in 2016 and here, she not only pays tribute but, in the repeated one-word chorus, embeds heartache, love, loss, anger, and nostalgia with every inflection with astonishing quality.
Lead single ‘Cedars’, is one of those pop songs you’d be forgiven for fast forwarding to the chorus’ hypnotic release of “Another fraying jumper”. It’s a wonderful pay off to the subtle and poetic verses.
Their previous two albums, musically, have often served as a vehicle to showcase Jo Bevan’s sublime vocal prowess. Now, guitarist Rob Hardy has found a vein of form so rich, its forged a partnership for the ages.
The singles ‘Cedars’ and especially ‘Satellite’, are beset with crushing Lindsey Buckingham-esque solos. He has begun to introduce pop immediacy into the shoegaze on ‘Murmations’ and ‘Jonatan’ with nods to straight up rock heroes The Cult. Their archetypal indie-goth sound feels fresher than ever on ‘Black Net’ and, on Ocean Wave’, Hardy, along with the razor ship rhythm of Caz Helbert and Simon Drowner, conjures a post-punk disco stomp classic.
Sometimes, on third albums, there is a sense of all or nothing for bands. They chose all in. This is a post-punk ‘Rumours’. This is the rarest of tightropes walked, where cutting edge meets accessible pop music and is credible. If Fleetwood Mac signed off their careers with this album, the world would lose its shit at ‘Satellite’ being the new ‘Go Your Own Way’ or ‘Argonauts’ as the new ‘Songbird’.