Unpopular Advent 2014 - Day 19: The Hit Parade - 'Cornish Pop Songs'
Was there ever a more perfect summer Pop record than The Hit Parade’s ‘Cornish Pop Songs’? Not in 2014 there wasn’t. Those that know know that Julian Henry has been crafting jewels of Pop perfection since time immemorial (or at least since the mid 1980s which is essentially the same thing) and ‘Cornish Pop Songs’ was the latest in a stream of perfectly poised records. If it had been an album of songs written about anywhere in the world then I’m certain I would have loved it, but I will be honest and admit that it was in no small part the context of the songs that meant that, frankly ‘Cornish Pop Songs' was a record that could hardly have failed to wrap me around its little finger and squeeze my heart until it ached.
There is something magical about the end of the world (or at least the end of England) that really does grab a hold of your soul. Something in the juxtapositions of the bleak, wild moors and seascapes and the cosy closeness of copses and the huddled-togetherness of the coastal villages. Something in the mystical histories and the contrariness. Something in the mizzle cloaked cliffs and the sun bleached sands. Magical, either way.
So did you need to have at least a minimal knowledge of the geographical context to adore ‘Cornish Pop Songs’? Of course not. For whilst little bits of local colour helped move things along (Mr Stevenson would be the Newlyn fish merchant for example, whilst the garage in Drift would be on the A30 out of Penzance - blink and you’ll miss it), these were fragments of personal geographic reference that rooted the songs in context, thereby allowing them to flower as blooms of universal familiarity. Julian Henry’s songs were a glorious collision between melancholic memorabilia and blissful euphoria. ‘Cornish Pop Songs’ then was both a paean to a specific, magical landscape and a celebration of the simple, essential ingredients of great Pop. Like sonic representations of Peter Benson novels, these songs were OF Cornwall but ABOUT love, loss and distance (both physical and through time). It was as close to perfect a Pop record as I heard in a long time.