The Crayon Fields: No One Deserves You

Geoffrey O'Connor reunites with The Crayon Fields, bringing together his passion for the '80s with the band's subtle pop. Are they soft-rock stars or just fading into the background?

- A few years ago when Geoffrey O’Connor left The Crayon Fields, aiming to make his mark on synth-pop, it was an occasion marked by sadness. Who needs new wave, even Geoffrey O’Connor’s wryly warped take on it, when you had The Crayon Fields? Maybe he just wanted to do something different.

After all The Crayon Fields and their subtly layered retro-pop had been whispering away for over a decade at that point. You know, in all that time, it was strangely difficult to pin the band down. Their quiet colourburst of sound branched out from C86 pop in many directions, towards the Flying Nun sound, to later inheritors of jangle and twee pop and further back into classic pop and rock’n’roll and folk, referencing everyone from Buddy Holly to the ethereal Nick Drake.

They’ve always had keys and synths in the mix too, so I’m sure there were stabs of new wave crooning in there, perhaps it started with the smoothness of 2009’s All The Pleasures Of The World where -as Mess+Noise noted- “...sex entered the room.

Well, it’s much more obvious now. No One Deserves You neatly integrates Geoffrey O’Connor’s sexy solo sounds from the suggestively entitled records Vanity Is Forever (2011) and Fan Fiction (2014) into The Crayon Fields formula. Chris Hung and Brett Hudson return to the guitar and bass and Neil Erenstrom reprises the drumming he did on All The Pleasures… although he shares his duties with a drum machine.

The album’s opening track sets the mood for the record and evokes its title -Slow Magic- literally. The pace is a languid drift as O’Connor fantasises about his dreamy lover. The chorus soars, but incrementally, through a series of cadences and rises only gently. It’s pop but it ain’t power-pop.

The record’s first single, She’s My Hero, has a distinctly Belle & Sebastian feel, from the bell-like guitar work, right down to the loving depiction of its heroine. It’s one of the most natural pop successes on the record. Despite the epic synth chords, Love Won’t Save You has its energy sapped by heartbroken lyrics, matching some of Stuart Murdoch’s more poisonous penmanship, or perhaps, with all these synths, The Magnetic Fields.

The title track seems to suggest an underlying viciousness, matching sweet pop with hateful themes, but that really isn’t the case here or on the record as a whole. It’s lovelorn but for the most part not bitter. Yet the level of energy remains low, as if love was leaving The Crayon Fields careworn instead of euphoric. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that they seem to want to be anthemic pop-stars but can’t escape the whispering softies they’ve always been.

If No One Deserves you brings together the whole history of Geoffrey O’Connor and The Crayon Fields it also sounds like it wants to open a new chapter. Like it has been for Twin Shadow, negotiating that metamorphosis into ‘80’s glory is difficult; but where George Lewis Jr. suffers from a complete lack of substance, The Crayon Fields seem too weighed down by who they are to really cut loose like Kenny Loggins. There are gems in here, but perhaps The Crayon Fields need to feel like they really do deserve to win the girl and then they can have it all.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: No One Deserves You
Artist: The Crayon Fields
Record Label: (Chapter)