Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth – 'Utopian Ashes' review Utopian Ashes Silvertone
On this album of dreary duets, Savages’ Jehnny Beth and Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie cast themselves as a fictional couple raking the coals of an irreparable marriage. Utopian Ashes deals in big human emotions – feeling unseen, unheard, unloved – but with none of the fire, passion and wit that has made both their bands so beloved. Instead, it plods through nine tracks of samey sentiments, failing to translate the banality of this domestic disaster into anything larger or more important than the basic sum of its parts. The lyrics are hammy and repetitive at best: Your Heart Will Always Be Broken is a bloated but pretty country-rock ballad, where the singers harmonise on vague lines like “you don’t know my love is real”.
Far worse is You Can Trust Me Now, a display of self-indulgent misery at its most offensive. Gillespie begins with a spoken-word moment about how remorse has “flattened him like a horse”, before Beth’s character accuses her husband of having “Hiroshima’d” his senses. You could argue, at a push, that this combination of inarticulacy and ignorance is an attempt to bring these characters to life – but it doesn’t make it any easier to listen to.
Gillespie recently complained that there’s not enough pain in modern rock music, but a legacy musician trying to course-correct an entire genre in his own image will always be doomed to fail. Utopian Ashes is too self-involved, stuck inside its own four walls, to have anything to say outside of them.