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Best GPS For Drowsy Singletons, 02:00:00 - 02:59:59, 01.01.09 Award

By George Bass | 18 December 2008

I Felt My Sad Heart Soar
(Liner; 2008)

Time to come clean: I’m a gambler. I live for that buzz when I ink in a guessing slip, eyes on the screen so the world can acknowledge I was a genius all along. “Balls to Robert Redford—here’s the real Horse Whisperer,” they’ll say, disappearing at the crumple of paper in case my rider burns and crashes. Prostitutes and crank just rob me, and where’s the fun in that? Betting is damned reincarnation. It strips and kicks you into the street, leaving you free to coo your way back in like the wife-beater armed with his daffodils. Round Two, and this time you’ll definitely knock that bitch through the wall. Definitely and without fail.

So, imagine my indignation when I realised that, despite all the stolen winks and tip-mongering, Kelman had again failed to get picked up by anyone weighty enough to make a fuss this year. I’m starting to think that frontman Wayne Gooderham must smell, that every time the marketing men call him in to discuss a support slot he starts growling and eating the mug trees. When he said yes to an interview in July just before his band dropped their I Felt My Sad Heart Soar sophomore, I thought my ship had come in to long-awaited tickertape for sure. This was the gamble I could make; the roll I could hang my paycheck, heirlooms, and kidneys on, clean up and walk away in Armani. I’d wangled a promo for the record some weeks hence, you see, and had been so blown back by its delicate integrity I had to lock myself away for the weekend. It was like I’d rediscovered opiates, I shit you not. I just knew that this time Kelman were going to make it—couldn’t not with an album this toothy. People were 100% going to cotton on to the fact that England’s most amicable songwriter was stuck temping at London Underground, paying his way through studio time with a sideline in stolen Oyster cards. The Kelman debut, Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive (2006), would fly off the shelves like Luftwaffe as folk woke up to their lovesick hardihood, and I Felt My Sad Heart Soar would be duly crowned The Holy Bible (1994) for anyone still clinging to courtesy.

But no: the ship came in and again ran quietly aground. It was a case of same shit, same day as Kelman attracted a whopping three salutes for their self-released masterpiece, leaving the remaining 497 pressings to collect lint under the composer’s empty captain’s bed. Gooderham himself disclosed that he would’ve called it quits long ago if it weren’t for the eight or nine worshippers who override his business sense, egging him on like Burgess Meredith did during the montage shots in Rocky. He knows he’s a contender, and the line he sings on “Commercial Road” about “Your gentle fists pummeling my defences down” takes on new meaning in retrospect, well beyond its physical context of feeling oneself thaw in the company of a cute stranger. There are flashes of victory in Kelman’s kitchen-sink balladry, with the happily fragile “Kicking Cans All The Way Home” seeing the shy guy lead a girl back to his pad for a rummage and perhaps something more. The beer and rain are bringing out his hooligan tendencies but the girl’s going nowhere, firmly by his side as neighbours cough at the rattling tins and soft electrics. Like life, though, it’s followed by the doom and poisoned Wurlitzers of “Postcards,” where Mr Ex-Hooligan is left spent and dreaming of a sharp medicinal exit. “Untethered” repeats the story again, except this time our crusty protagonist wobbles home on some hungover sunshine. He’s tired and he wants to go to bed. Alone.

Kelman’s pulling power lies in their resolve, and it’s this that quadruples the lifespan of what’s already a truly penetrating record. If humans couldn’t cope with repeated failure then we’d all be staring at sockets with our belts round our biceps, lips turning blue with shame and semi-dissolved heroin. Kelman get this (check the F Scott Fitzgerald quote on the sleeve art) and also know that, in real life, there isn’t a Burgess Meredith from Rocky to get you out of beer and rain. That magnificent flying muscle that’s set up in the title of the record? Yes, it exists, and “NYE” is where it finally gets some air, creeping up on the sound barrier as it clears the eight-minute mark. Kelman can do epic as easy as people escape into daydreams, and when Gooderham whispers “And I’m meaning every pick-up line / For the first time in my life / I do the best that I can,” you can feel the belief in his eyes.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot when 2009 is uncurling, here’s the marker buoy that just might save you if you’re alone on a liner full of even numbers. The fearsome and feathery guitar hushes of I Felt My Sad Heart Soar form the year’s most explosive damp Squib, and Gooderham deserves a touch from the Queen for being the poet laureate of the publically sheepish. Believe me, I’m not writing about this shit for my health or my conscience—I’m writing about it for yours. The second Kelman record glows like volcano vein brimstone, and is without doubt one that the people with sore and stapled-up hearts need on standby for pangs of solitude. So, for fuck’s sake, someone out there do the decent thing and get this music circulating. Sign them or face the consequences. Sign them sign them sign them sign them sign them sign them sign them.