Grand Salvo: Slay Me In My Sleep
- Grand Salvo's Paddy Mann has been plugging away, down there, in Melbourne for what, twelve years and six albums now? Right from the beginning he knew what he wanted to do, springing wholly formed on to the scene. No filly-fallying around with EPs, thankyou very much; with a quiet but confident voice he laid down an album's length of material that achieved exactly what he it wanted to. Over the years Mann's vision has only deepened, his narrative style moving into long-form works, like his 2008 epic, Death, and now, again, in 2012, his new album, Slay Me In My Sleep. You might call them concept albums, but Mann demurs and not just because of the obvious stigma attached to the much maligned concept album. He prefers to call what he does story-telling and Slay Me In My Sleep certainly qualifies. It feels less like a series of discrete songs centered around an idea, and more like a single tale divided into a succession of smoothly flowing chapters. The particular story it tells is an unusual one, about love, which in itself is just about the most hackneyed topic in the rock'n'roll repertoire, but this is not your average love. Its protagonists are a drunken youth who, in the middle of the night, stumbles into a house where an old lady lives. He discovers a photo of the woman in her youth and in the way only a drunken youth can, falls madly in love. In the kind of coincidence which can only happen in stories, the old woman, upon discovering the boy, realises that he perfectly resembles the lover that was brutally taken from her, so many years ago. Mann works this theme of mystical and irreconcilable love for all it is worth, over the course of Slay Me In My Sleep and produces some moments of both endearing warmth and exquisite sadness. According to him, with this record, he has attempted to work with a broader emotional palette than ever before, putting not just his lyrical skill to the test, but using the wide range of instruments he orchestrates far more boldly, too. On songs like How, Three Days Later or He Raises Her Gently, Mann's typical, softly singing voice and quietly strummed, nylon string guitar meet some of the wildest songwriting he has ever employed and particularly on the latter, probably my favourite on the record, the almost overwhelming contrast is wonderful to behold. I shouldn't make comparisons, I know, but it recalls to me Sufjan Stevens in the fullest of flight. There's also plenty of Mann's more traditional work, quiet and tentative, like the wretchedly heartbreaking song The Boy's Story Of His Faithful Family Dog. Honestly, if owning a dog has to involve a moment like that, then I never will again. Paddy Mann and through him, Grand Salvo are a unique voice today, one that it's simply impossible to imagine ever running out of material to put to music. It's equally difficult to imagine that I will ever have anything but eager ears to hear it.
- Chris Cobcroft.