My favourite debut album of 2009 came from the best new band in London, Orphans and Vandals, who combined the epic feel of My Life Story with the tawdry, lo-rent glamour of Pulp, the cynicism of The Auteurs and the art-rock of the Velvet Underground.
Oh, and, more importantly, they had a female string section.
Orphans and Vandals are fronted by`singer/songwriter Al Joshua. Imagine Lou Reed, but if he was stuck between the boroughs of Camden and Islington, rather than walking the mean streets of New York.The five-piece had me transfixed at gigs throughout 2009 – and their album didn’t disappoint – perfectly capturing the edgy atmospherics of their live shows – an elegant, yet twisted, pop tour de force.
I was drawn in by Al’s tales of bed-sit dreaming, wet nights in New Cross, dirty sex with both men and women, Parisian nightlife and seaside cottage getaways in order to escape the loneliness of his King’s Cross box room.
Album highlight – the beautiful, epic, poetic and unashamedly romantic Argyle Square – was one of my songs of 2009 – a twinkling Belle and Sebastian- style story song, with violin, glockenspiel, clarinet and a Dylanesque harmonica solo thrown in for good measure.
Liquor on Sunday was another favourite – all whoozy harmonium and faded gin palaces.
Al talked his way through the songs in a Jarvis Cocker-esque delivery, or spat and snarled like Luke Haines. During the staggering, colossal Mysterious Skin, he even sang about someone ejaculating all over him.
So, if you were looking for a grandiose, seedy, yet beautiful, soundtrack to modern London life, then Orphans and Vandals had it, ahem,covered.