Songs Without A Purpose

Johnny Parry

Losttoys002, 2006

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Singer/songwriter Johnny Parry might be the best thing to come out of the UK since Coldplay or even Radiohead. Yes, he is that good.

Parry’s music has a very simple mantra: honest love songs. For all you lovers of singer-songwriters who are ashamed by the genre because of a certain artist with the initials James Blunt, Parry is a healing force. He doesn’t let crooning or puppy-dog whining get the better of his songs. He is a poet and an excellent musician who lets nothing but his creativity to do the job.

As a matter of fact, with a voice like his, the love-for-pity trick would go against him. Imagine Tom Waits impersonating Leonard Cohen while smoking a cigar. That is what Parry sounds like when he is smoking a cigar and singing at the same time. This might not be so great when it comes to singing love ballads, but it seems perfect for his music, which could be compared to Cohen or Waits or even to Tindersticks, than to any of the stereotypical Brit alt-rockers.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Songs Without A Purpose is one of the most beautiful records ever made. The lush pastoral violin arrangements, a characteristic of Parry’s music, create an atmosphere that forms a heavenly canvas on which Parry paints majestic pictures that are blessed with details, may it be his wonderful play with words (his articulate usage of the self-invented expression “demon spawn” on three different cuts, “If I Was A Killer,” “Sweet Nothings” and “A Love Song”); the subtle whispers in his breathy laryngitic singing; the nearly indiscernible muted guitar strumming that is still as significant as the distinct piano sound, which is the heart of “Little Prayer No.6;” or the piano that itself is muted and barely makes its presence known but is so important to the build up of the dreamy strings on “Hotel Floor.”

The beauty of folk music lies in its simplicity: its frugality with elaborate musical compositions but opulence in poetry. Parry inherits the rusticism of folk music, with words that often wander into strange poetry with disturbing images, whose complexity runs much deeper than what they say on the surface: “I’ll embrace you to burn / then I’ll sleep with your body” on “Hotel Floor;” “I’ll feed you and beat you to a pulp / lock up your lovers in the ocean…Hurl your bones to the dogs with glee / and open your sinful little mouth” on “Sweet Nothings;” and “I’ll take you to my bloody grave / seal these bones all around your name” on “Little Prayer No.6.”

Parry’s music is as uncompromising as his words. His brand of folk music is about textured layers that reach musical complexities far beyond what’s conventional in this genre. Abstaining from the use of any electrical guitars or keyboards, Parry keeps his music chaste, but makes it lavish and indulgent without foregoing every little element that is played to perfection and has a meaning in the complex web.

Parry strictly follows all the ground rules of folk music but takes them to a whole new level. Without appearing poppy or sophisticated, his music brims with such beauty, elegance and bountifulness that it is impossible not to look at him as a poetic and musical genius. Could Johnny Parry be England’s best export in recent years? Hell, yes! Just give Songs Without A Purpose a spin and you’ll know why.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Losttoys002, and is used for informational purposes only.