Charlie Simpson is one busy man. Not only is he one third of Busted, the 2000s pre-teen rock version of Oasis to McFly’s Blur and Fightstar, the band he left Busted for (totally over it now), but now he has another band, Once Upon A Dead Man. This family affair is a far cry from both of his other bands; sonically more mature than Busted’s offerings and softer than Fightstar, the band have established them as serious artists with serious influences such as The National. The result is Concepts And Phenoma, a lush six song EP that leaves you wanting more.
Opening track The Canopy welcomes you with an atmospheric intro slightly reminiscient of a Eurovision Song Contest entry before breathy vocals cry over a Depeche Mode style melody, ably helped by the ridiculously catchy chorus. The whole EP feels very relevant; the latest pop techniques are employed, there are tinges of electronica and random whirring and you would swear the melody of second track Give Up had been ripped straight from Chvrches. The melodies employed are the real stars of the show as lyrics are kept simple and often repeat in order to give them centre stage. Rush marks a return to the traditional rock that Simpson has built his name on. Choir style vocals usher in a gentle rock tune that gently builds throughout, although it promises a defining moment that the band never deliver. The predictability of each song is the main factor in preventing the EP from moving from good to great status.
There is a highlight though in the form of A More Ordinary Time; the vocal duties shift resulting in a smoother voice over the darkly poppy and minor keys of the melody. The vocals perfectly echo the emotion that the melody conveys, serving only to emphasise the meaning of the lyrics. It may be the softest track on the EP but it somehow has the biggest impact with its strange ability to soothe before the defining moment lacking in other tracks is finally delivered with the background vocals building to add atmosphere to the whole thing.
The music may be completely different from what we are used to from Simpson but it is brilliant nonetheless. Whether it be the family and friend dynamic that allows him to be himself or whether it be he is simply filling a desire to experiment sonically, may Charlie Simpson and co. keep this coming.
For fans of: Chvrches, PVRIS, Gunship
Words by Clara Duffy
‘Concepts And Phenomena’ by Once Upon A Dead Man is out now.