- 16 Jun 20
The cover artist's first release pays homage to 80s rockers while mostly managing to stay original.
Press ‘play’ on Gavin Murphy’s 45 RPM, and the lilting riffs and rolling bass of ‘Into Temptation’ have an instantly nostalgic effect. Though Murphy’s lyrics have a melancholy edge, his songs are smooth and summery – tunes that put you on a half – remembered beach, the sea wind in your hair.
This nostalgic tone is no accident. Murphy is the lead guitarist and manager of a Smiths tribute band, and his album’s title isn’t just a reference to 7-inch vinyl – ‘RPM’ also stands for ‘Replay Past Memories.’ Murphy’s first solo offering is strongest when it embraces these 1980’s influences, wrapping listeners in jangly guitars and bittersweet, echoey melodies.
The album’s opener exemplifies this sound. So does ‘Finding My Way Back Home,’ which transforms a classic story of home-and love-sickness into a catchy anthem. ‘It Beats Living Alone’ is the album’s loudest and most compelling track. Switching between dark, bass-heavy verses and huge choruses, it has the same moody energy as Smiths classics like ‘How Soon is Now?’ and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again.’
Another highlight is ‘Floating Free,’ a ballad that foregrounds Murphy’s sensitive lyricism with its slower pace. “When we’re young / Life’s for fun,” he sings, as behind him the track builds from a simple acoustic guitar base into a cascade of harmonies and strings. By its climax, listeners can imagine Murphy floating into the sun-soaked past he spends much of this album conjuring up.
There are occasional missteps, though. Overloaded with reverb, ‘What Am I Doing Here?’ feels less like an ode to post-punk, and more like generic soft rock. ‘They’ll Always Let You Down’ evokes ‘80’s pop again with its space-age synths, but ends up sounding kitschy and dated.
But when Murphy manages to sound classic rather than dated – as he does on most of 45 RPM – the result is bittersweet, nostalgic, and fun.
Listen to 45 RPM on Spotify below.