The end of a romantic relationship can feel very much like a bereavement. There is not only the profound sense of loss of the partnership itself but also grief for the dreams you once shared and the life together you could have had. It is especially hard when that relationship takes place within confines of a band. Rather than retreating from these difficult emotions, songwriters Vikki Gavin and Griff Jameson have poured their experiences into Careless, the third album by Cambridge band Fred’s House. It is an honest, beautiful and bittersweet album full of love, vulnerability, hurt, acceptance and healing that is by far their strongest album to date.
The band raid their back catalogue for reworked versions of two tracks from their 2012 Looking Glass EP. Upbeat album opener ‘This Little Boy’ is transformed by Paul Richards and Gafyn Jameson’s rolling rhythm over which Lachlan Golder lays down a tasteful slide guitar while the jazz-infused ‘I’m Not Saying’ betters the original by a distance with an excellent vocal from Vikki Gavin and a fluid electric guitar break from Golder.
Lead single ‘Never Gonna Love You’ is a buoyant and finely crafted song with a hook-laden chorus that comes back stronger each time around, but the mood shifts with ‘Careless’ – one of the undoubted highlights of the album – a melancholy and beautifully written song that articulates the hurt at the end of a relationship and the first tentative steps towards recovery. It is a theme that continues with the reflective ‘Can We Just Pretend’ and ‘Forget About It’ which explores the difficulty in staying emotionally open when the instinctive tendency is to shut down.
The production on Careless (by Neil Rogers and Fred’s House) is rich and clear, but never fussy, allowing a collection of well-crafted songs to breathe, yet there are still some surprising touches; Hannah Elizabeth graces the sensitive ‘Keep It To Myself’ with a tender violin solo whilst Jonathan Ackaart’s mournful trombone (yes, really!) underscores Lachlan Golder’s haunting guitar solo on ‘Forget About It’ way better than you might imagine. For all that though, one of the most affecting songs on the album is also the simplest: the wistful ‘Charity Shop Song’ features just two acoustic guitars, a gorgeous, affecting vocal from Vikki Gavin and makes its point beautifully without stating it explicitly. Wonderful.
With Griff Jameson announcing his departure from the band at the end of the year, Careless feels like the closing of a chapter for Fred’s House, yet, despite the difficulties surrounding its creation, it is an album that they have every right to be proud of. Wrapped up in its eleven melodic and beautifully crafted songs are poignant tales of love, loss and human vulnerability. Careless is an excellent album and comes highly recommended.
Review by David Waterfield
- Released through Cracking Tunes on 26 October 2018
- This Little Boy
- Never Gonna Love You
- Keep It To Myself
- Forget About It
- Can We Just Pretend?
- I’m Not Saying
- Bad Place
- I Can’t Call You Mine
- Charity Shop Song
- Sooner or Later