Cinematic scenesters Rialto were always one of my favourite Britpop bands, writing atmospheric John Barry-meets-Morricone soundtracks for hedonistic nights out in London town.
Despite releasing a clutch of brilliant, epic pop singles that combined the bombast of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with the nerve-shredding drama of Sixties spy movie themes and the theatrical tension of Pulp and the Pet Shop Boys, Rialto faded into obscurity after only two albums.
Their frontman – and songwriter – Louis Eliot, is now pursuing a solo career, but he’s left the drama of London behind for the remote Cornish countryside, where he now lives, writes and records, playing pastoral folk-pop.
His first solo album, The Long Way Round, was released in 2004. At the time, I said: ‘ This record is a charming collection of self-penned songs in the vein of mid-period Beatles or Kinks. High on melody and low on production values, it’s a collection of intimate,stripped-down quirky tunes.The arrangements are sparse – mostly acoustic – but occasionally bolstered with easy listening-style brass and Dylan-like harmonica.’
Well, I am delighted to announce that the long-awaited follow-up album is finally being released in January 2010. What’s more, I’ve already had a listen to it and it’s brilliant.
Kittow’s Moor is the first album that Louis has made with his new band, The Embers, featuring, among others, Martin Bell from The Wonderstuff, who plays fiddle, mandolin and banjo on the record, as well as carrying out co-production duties and composing the brass arrangements.
A more mature record than its predecessor, it’s also even folkier, which could be down to Bell’s influence. Accordion and whistle create a Celtic feel, conjuring up comparisons to The Waterboys. Loaded with rural imagery and poetic lyrics, the songs deal with love, loss, childhood memories and,er, drinking to excess.
The very trad I Saw Her At The Fair is full of rich imagery – a fair rolls into town, complete with bully boys, bumper cars and tungsten stars. It’s like Mike Scott meets Morrissey.
The 25th of the 12th is a poignant tale of a Cornish Christmas ( “A billion snowflakes fell in a field of white….. Meet me down by the early English church, the frozen ground and the silent silver birch.”), while Skimming Stones has Louis casting his mind back to when, as a young boy, he stood on a beach, indulging in a favourite pursuit ,dreaming of his future. (“Take me back home to the place, where dreams are all I’ve known, stepping out over the breaks, when we were skimming stones.”)
There are, however, some other nods to his past on this album, in particular, hints of his previous musical careers. Come On Let’s Go could almost be a long-lost Rialto tune – it’s a wry commentary on the excesses of London nightlife with a definite Ray Davies feel – but for the appearance of a Cornish brass band.
Before he formed Rialto, Louis was the vocalist in glam revivalists Kinky Machine. On One Step At A Time, his love of glam rock is still evident – it has a Glittery backbeat and great fuzzy guitar licks.
My favourite song on the album is just simply one of the best things Louis has ever written. Opener Runaway Night manages to capture some of Rialto’s tawdry, nocturnal melancholy and romantic longing (‘To the broken tune of an ice cream van, I wrote a song for you on the back of my hand. If you follow me, we can jump the lights, of a seaside town on a Saturday night. And when you hold me tight, it feels just like when you close your eyes on a motorbike.”)