I've been listening to the album non-stop for three days now, and I still love it. It Gets Worse at Night is Gareth Icke's debut effort, and it's the kind of album I want to hear every time I'm hoodwinked into taking a chance on the Next Big Thing; real and compelling without a lot of pomp and posturing.
When I first stumbled across Icke, I was surfing through the endless stream of band pages on MySpace, hoping to find something new to get lost in. Like most music lovers these days, I find myself spending more time scouring the bins for something good than actually listening to good music. It's made me a little cynical… and then I found him (or well, MySpace drew us together).
The tracks on his page were simple live recordings that were haunting and powerful, and I was caught by a song called "We Hide in Caves." The song was fragile and compelling in its forlorn echoes and strangely beautiful desolation.
I don't generally go in for folk, but, well, sometimes you just need a respite from all that death metal/goth/emo/grindcore/postpunk/new-new-new wave passing itself off as youthful passion these days, and frankly, I was impressed.
The twenty-something singer hails from Ryde, a small seaside resort town on the Isle of Wight in England and the songs contain the kind of straight forward and humble lyrical landscapes that fit with such surroundings.
Six months, a record label (Icon), and some time in the studio (with Dan Swift who also recorded Snow Patrol, Aqualung, and Kasabian) later, and what came out was It Gets Worse at Night, a masterful transformation of those soulful acoustic ballads into a well crafted pop record that didn't loose any of its heart; though, admittedly, I'm still a bigger fan of the original stripped down verson of "We Hide in Caves."
From the first song Feels Like a Race, Icke's voice comes charging out of the gates, lamenting that awful feeling that things are passing you by, and the daunting endurance life sometimes requires. The songs are full of angst at times, tinged with hope and a little remorse at others; but this isn't the kind of morose confessionalism that became the pox of indie music in the early part of the new millennium, nor is it the overly dramatic and tragic mewing of the more recent crop of musical talent hitting the airwaves and taking over itunes.
It Gets Worse at Night is full of enough upbeat melodies and hooks to keep a smile on your face and have your foot tapping along with the beat. Lost loves and dark nights of the soul are recounted in a winsome kind of way belying the sorrow of the words that are sung, which is perhaps Icke's greatest strength as a vocalist.
His voice is both soothing and plaintive and moves most powerfully when the music falls back into the quietude of simple guitar picking for accompaniment; creating the kind of ambivalent tension reminiscent of a Lord Byron poem or a David Sedaris essay. Even when he's singing about the kind of loneliness that gets worse at night, there's a strange hopefulness in his voice that reassures things will all work out alright in the end.