Britain has been battered by another storm and I’m sat indoors listening to the enchanting sounds of Merseyside collective Loved Ones. I’m late to the party as usual, but it doesn’t matter, there’s something timeless about these tracks although equally something exciting and relevant about them too. My kind of music.
Although this Merseyside 4-piece’s debut album “The Merry Monarch” was released in July 2013 through Baltic Sub and touted as a summer album, songs such as Sweet Breads make for the perfect antithesis to what’s happening outside with it’s minimal beats, atmospheric piano, woozy guitars and processed vocals. It’s laid-back and atmospheric soundscapes glide-along with subtle beauty, providing a perfect winter soundtrack.
Paper Crown jolts and skips with gliding synths, stuttering percussion and an almost anthemic “it’s your birthday, we’ll do anything you want to” chorus, where classic songwriting and quirky electronic production sit together perfectly. There’s magic in this song.
Loved Ones (Nik Glover & Rich Hurst & Jay Freeman & Ben Shooter ) sound like a band still finding their feet. It’s a good thing though, as their sonic experiments make for intriguing listening. They’ve been championed by The Times among others and already secured impressive support slots for the likes of Liars and Django Django and it’s easy to see why.
This is obviously a collective of talented musicians, but with an interest in getting the atmosphere and sonics of their compositions just right. It’s that attention to detail and experimental frisson that elevates them way above their peers.
Here’s Loved Ones Nik Glover and his submission:
I’d like to write a movie about the life of Alistair Cooke. Alistair Cooke, not Alistair Cook. Not the England cricket captain – the guy I’m interested in is the journalist and broadcaster who wrote thousands of Letters from America from the 1940’s until his death in 2004; the Americanised native of Salford who was there to witness Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, who reported on Watergate and the Oliver North trial; who was, for many years, the only foreign correspondent allowed in the White House press corps.
Cooke’s Letters from America began in 1946, but he had been living there intermittently since the early 30’s. His overview of the 20th Century’s roll-call of American presidents is stunning. From FDR through Truman and Eisenhower into the painful, dramatic years of Kennedy and Johnson; Nixon and Watergate, Ford, the perceived loss in standing that the superpower faced following the OPEC crises, the rise of the Republicans under Reagan and Bush and the years of Clinton that are at last starting to feel like ancient history.
Alongside the great Presidents and politicians, Cooke knew the great men and women; Chaplin, his own mentor HL Mencken, Russian Foreign Ministers, newspapermen, business magnates. The story of Cooke’s life is the story of how modern America came to exist. It would make the greatest television series anyone has ever commissioned, if you could find a young actor bold enough to devote his entire life to playing one character.
The idea of a comprehensive account of the 60 or so years of the great man’s life and correspondence is almost Kaufman-esque – by which I mean that bringing it to fruition would represent the closest approximation of Kaufman’s ideas from Synecdoche, New York possible with reference to real life… to paint a full America, by referencing the life of a single individual – or, perversely, to build a picture of a single individual by reference to a nation of millions.
Drawing a sketch of a country in a constant flux of conservatism, liberalism and extremism demands a central character capable of representing, or at least foreshadowing the ebb and flow of events. Cooke’s political views (like, I suspect, most people who live through ‘interesting times’) changed as he reacted instinctively to the tempests that battered the country. Like many liberals he worshipped Franklin Roosevelt. Like most dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives he believed that Reagan was essentially correct in his assessment of America’s moral decline during the 70’s, even to the extent that he was not exactly damning in his frequent coverage of the Iran-Contra mess, but seemed to buy Reagan’s Idiot Defence, for the all-too-believable reason that Reagan ‘didn’t do his homework’ i.e. that he was essentially asleep at the wheel when it came down to the important grasp of detail needed to be a President. In Cooke’s eyes, being corrupt need not necessarily follow from being feckless.
Our story would begin with Cooke’s climbing out of a taxi cab in San Francisco. Pushing his way through a crowd of greasy-haired men dressed in dinner jackets smoking billowing cigars and ladies in ball gowns, he emerges out onto the balcony of the Conference Hall. Beneath him he can see Antony Eden, Molotov, the US delegation led by Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius Jr, eager to treat with the Soviets. Sheiks, soldiers, and savages, often interchangeable in dress and conversation. The United Nations is born. The crowd files away.
In the corridor Cooke stands by a set of rich, crimson drapes, smoking a cigarette and watching the attendees herd out of the glass doors into the street and the awaiting flung-open doors of hulking yellow taxis. He feels his arm grabbed – he turns, and looks into the eyes of a young woman, finely dressed in a sequinned dress of brocade silk. The noise of the outrushing crowd is too great for us to pick up their conversation – it is obvious they know each other well. He leans over her, squeezing her arm as he speaks into her ear.
Years later, we see him recording his weekly letter, a glass of mineral water full at his elbow, a glaring sheet of white paper laid before him. The subject is Senator Robert Packwood, who has just become the first Senator in decades to be hounded out of his office. Cooke is expressing barely-disguised contempt at the shift in sexual politics which led to the current flowering of sexual harassment cases. What would formerly be seen as a bit of fun, he explains, is now enough to delete a glittering career in the public’s service. We are reminded that this is a man born in the lower reaches of the 20th Century, and who cannot be expected to share our own tense watchfulness over issues of equality.
The early scenes, of the US victory in WWII, and prior to that Roosevelt’s alphabet agency system and the near-socialist years in which the whole country seemed to drag itself up out of the Depression, are framed by the usual scenes of mass production, of bridges being raised, highways paved, vast construction projects manned by dusty, grinning mountebanks. Later, Cooke will remember, in the glow of energy-saving bulbs, that these years were really the sowing season for the economic woes of the 80’s and 90’s. Point and counter-point. Every decade, every event has its mirror. Watergate and the sallow Nixon is faced by Iran-Contra and the sympathetic Reagan. “I didn’t know” followed by “I knew”, is mirrored by “I know” followed by “Turns out I didn’t know”.
Cooke’s own prejudice for this tottering, stratospheric country, capable both of deep-seated vice and hard-nosed liberality solidifies over the years. As we watch him age, so we observe his opinions calcify, and his conservatism grow. He is eventually, tragically, even willing to endorse state censorship. The old line that ‘freedom of speech means freedom for the speech that we don’t like’ is watered down by the onslaught of mountains of obscenity. Online America.
Lately, he sees predators everywhere; the OJ Simpson case is especially depressing, he thinks, representing as it does the inherent racism still rooted in the consciousness of most citizens. At the end of the trial, roughly the same percentages of Americans, White or Black, refuse to change their opinions of Simpson’s guilt. Cooke is bored with television. He spends most of his time on the golf course. The film sets become emptier, the soundtrack quieter.
From the haunted outfield of an empty baseball stadium during the league strike of the mid-nineties, Cooke cranes his neck to the sky and the extinguished lights, sighing and noticing, not for the first time, the ache of an endless train of failed presidential hopefuls, dirty bombs, assassin’s bullets, lingerie-drawer scandals and pointless catastrophes. His overcoat is heavy. He drops his head, shadow envelops his face. He turns; lopes sadly off down the tunnel. Fade to black.
Our final scene takes place in silence. Cooke is walking through a palatial hall. Blazered security men nod silently to him, ear pieces buzzing. Japanese tourists pass him. An elevator door opens, out steps an embarrassed-looking senator with a youngish girl. His wife? Daughter? Cooke barely notices. He plods on, through a white washed maze of corridors, ante rooms, and blue carpeted halls. He comes to a pair of ornate double doors. He enters.
We see him framed in a doorway of the House Chamber, an ant in a gigantic parking lot. He hurries to a seat on the house floor, sits reverently. He looks towards the unfurled stars and stripes.
A Hispanic lady cleaner appears, foregrounded, with Cooke in the distance, watching. She enters his aisle, walking up past the seated figure. She smiles at him, and says Hello. Cooke is turned away from us, the skin of his jaw raised by the pressure of his forefinger. He seems to say something gentle. She smiles, and disappears out of shot.
Keep up to date with the latest Loved Ones news here.
Introduction by Wanda B
Alistair Cooke 1908-2004.
Photos: Boston University Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre