Don’t let it pass you by, so easy to let something pass you by….
ALBUM REVIEW: THE LAST DINOSAUR – The Nothing (Naim Records) – it really is a bit of a slow burner and those in need of that instant energy rush with the first half a minute or so might be tempted to turn to the next button or to swipe left or whatever it is we do these days. Slow down, give it time, this recently new album from The Last Dinosaur is a rather beautiful thing, you need to uncork it and let it slowly quietly breathe for a while, you need to let the lush beauty flow through the air and quietly reveal itself to you, let the life in those sounds and those details breathe, let it reach you, let it touch you, for when it does it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds on a dull grey March day, it’s like sitting in a green field and letting all your worries go for a few minutes, like the smile on a good friends face when you haven’t seen them for a while. Those songs slowly reach out and gently caress, this new album from The Last Dinosaur really is a quietly beautiful thing, a glorious thing, a wondrously flowing growing thing, a thing so full of life and celebration. The peacefulness is beautiful, the detail is exquisite, the texture is clever without ever need to show us how clever it is, the warmth is beguiling, quietly unassuming and beautifully refreshing, maybe things aren’t so bad after all? Quietly orchestral, an understated delight of an album, cleverly crafted songs that have all the time in the world to drift by. Almost whispered at times, the space between the sounds and the notes as important as the sounds themselves, the sound of silence and sunlight and Spring and less is so so so much more here if you have to time to let it be. And it starts off sounding like it might just be nothing more than a twee album or a cute thing, those breezy guitars at the start are just too nice for their own good, that second song “Grow” just doesn’t quite get you until that seed breaks through with that lush string sound about two minutes in and from that point you’re hooked you have to listen to the album until the end, there’s no way you can’t, that point two minutes in to the first song where it beaks through the soil is the crucial moment where you just know. Look I could gush about this album for pages and pages, the beautiful thing has been on repeat for hours now, it makes me want to stop and paint, or maybe just sit, I could gush and gush, but the point is, let it grow, let it breathe, in these days of swipes and next and the need for something to instantly impress this is such a beautiful breath of slowly revealing itself fresh air, or as someone else said so well, this is “poignant, dreamlike, beautiful, The Last Dinosaur’s The Nothing is a record to swim in…”. This is simply a beautiful record, wonderful, a real labour of love… (sw)
The album actually came out last year, must confess I only just listened to it today, something to do with a press release telling us the Last Dinosaur will be at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters on Monday March 26th. There’s the album is just up there, you can hear the whole thing right there, you really don’t need our words, just take your time and let it grow around you, don’t let it pass you by….
And here, from the press release that came in earlier today, a little background
Poignant, dreamlike, beautiful: The Last Dinosaur’s The Nothing is a record to swim in. The brainchild of Londoner Jamie Cameron, it’s an album that addresses a tragic event from his teenage years, and transmutes that experience into a cathartic work of art.
At 16, Jamie had met kindred spirit James Macdonald at music college and recorded the 2004 album Good Morning Sunshine… and Goodnight with him under the name When I Was a Little Girl, a well-received debut through the independent label Where It’s At Is Where You Are. But a year later, Jamie was in a car crash that tragically claimed the life of his best friend. Out for the day with one of Jamie’s sisters and another friend, the car aquaplaned and hit another car at a junction. James’ injuries were the worst among the passengers, and when he passed away, Jamie was in a state of shock.
“I’d had a pretty idyllic life until then, nothing particularly bad had happened,” Jamie says. “That was a difficult experience to comprehend. Despite how harrowing it was, I thought came out of it relatively mentally unscathed, although in hindsight that’s a trick you tell yourself.”
Instead, he began recording with another music college friend, Luke Hayden, as The Last Dinosaur. Jamie’s parents split up, he broke up with his girlfriend, and The Last Dinosaur’s debut album Hooray! For Happiness, covered glowingly by the likes of Uncut, The Line Of Best Fit and more, attempted to come to terms with these experiences, while avoiding the real elephant in the room. “I was doing everything to avoid confronting this really big thing that happened at an age when you don’t generally experience death and loss,” Jamie says.
Afterwards, depression took hold of him, but over the course of years, he began writing, recording and amassing songs that addressed his grief and own fear of dying. The powerful The Nothing began to take shape.
“It wasn’t an intention of mine to write an album about dying or anything like that, but I realised after I’d written a few songs that they all were about it in some way. It got to a point where I couldn’t really avoid it. I’d done the divorce album and it was all I was left with, trying to make sense of this thing that happened. Halfway through I realised it was profoundly cathartic, it made me felt less scared of dying.”
The Nothing is uplifting, life-affirming. Its lyrics may tackle the subject of mortality, but the gorgeous, overlapping, interlacing melodies are like drifting in a blissful reverie. ‘We’ll Greet Death’, with its strings, piano, saxophone and acoustic guitar is defiant, possessed of an emotional complexity. On ‘Grow’, Jamie’s lovely acoustic plucking forms the basis for a song about the fragility of life, while ‘The Sea’ is a meditative post-rock movement that begins in a hushed place and concludes over five minutes later in a gorgeous string-laden denouement. Although Jamie professes to a childhood love for R.E.M, Tortoise and most of all, Talk Talk, the music here is very much his own, self-penned and performed with close friend Rachel Lanskey providing viola on most of the songs. “I’ve had a very strong sense of never wanting to copy anyone else’s music, I just want to sound like me,” Jamie says.
Created between 2009 and 2016, The Nothing is a stunning, affecting album that is also a touching tribute to Jamie’s late friend. “Someone called it elegiac,” Jamie says. “I quite liked that notion.”
And while we’re here, a rather fine Talk Talk cover….