After last year’s sudden rebranding from Wolfe Sunday and a label change to DIY outfit Not My Dog Records, Laurence Crow is back with his Imaginary Band with a new album for 2019. A concept album regarding mental health issues, it’s a charity release with all profits going towards CALM and other mental health charities. A reverb-heavy introduction gives way to the same stripped back acoustic-punk guitar sound that Crow has made himself a name for with over the past decade in 'Three Words', with clever effects in the chorus provided by producer Joe Reid that give the album a slightly more progressive sound than previous releases.
However, the solitary sound of Crow’s voice and acoustic guitar also provides something of a throwback to earlier Wolfe Sunday releases before the incorporation of a backing band, especially in the album’s lead single 'DNA'. The gang vocal chorus continues as a theme from the previous song, with poignant lyrics about the subject matter that manage to engage the listener into thinking whilst listening. A more rocky sound is present in 'Death Row', the other single released from the album, with a melancholy melody
set to angry lyrics reminiscent of Frank Turner.
The electric instruments make a return in 'Bruises', but it’s still far from the full-band sound; it’s good to see Crow’s music progressing between sounds, unafraid to make radical decisions about instrumentation at the expense of the sound. The release is a DIY one through and through, with the sound of punky acoustic guitar strumming dominating the music throughout.
For the most part, the songs so far haven’t had the same catchy choruses and upbeat tempo as previous releases, but given the subject matter that is to be expected somewhat. 'Sleepless Nights', touching on mental health in romantic relationships, is a surprising highlight for the latter half of the album, with a catchy chorus brought to life by a ghostly reverb effect. “Warriors” then builds the album up to a good climax with a faster power chord-driven rock riff alongside some nice lead slide playing.
The album closes with the semi-autobiographical 'Who Wants To Be Normal Anyway?', a catchy and tongue-in-cheek piece of self-reflection that makes for a nicer upbeat ending to an album that achieves, for the most part, exactly what it set out to. Given the subject matter, that may make it difficult listening for some audiences, but it’s an honest and effective listen that, whilst perhaps not being Crow’s best album, still makes for a poignant and important listen.
How To Survive Modern Life is out now via Not My Dog Records