Bellevue Days – ‘It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever’

By Andy Joice

It seems that despite certain things ‘remaining’ the same over the last few years, a lot has changed. Not least Croydon four-piece Bellevue Days, who’s debut album ‘It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever’ shows that not all change is bad. Since the release of their first EP, 2015’s ‘The Sun Came Up When We Were Young’, they’ve dropped two additional EPs –  2016’s Sad Boy and 2018’s Rosehill – toured extensively with the likes of Jamie Lenman, Twin Atlantic and Mallory Knox and played numerous festivals. But as vocalist Alan Smith says, “It seems like the whole world is kinda falling apart in every direction you look, doesn’t it?”.

Generally writing about personal experiences and feelings, he’s taken a slightly different approach with this album. Having avoided politics in the past – “I ain’t no Bob Dylan just yet” – he’s built upon stories from other people’s perspective, building a fresh take and a new outlook.

Perhaps the biggest change on the record is bassist Joe Blackford also sharing lead vocal duties with Smith and guitarist, Daniel Lukes. The transitions between Blackford, Smith and Lukes on vocals creates a dynamic that, paradoxically, both softens and hardens each track, with Blackford having a slightly softer voice than Smith. Of course, once they harmonise together – and they do, regularly – it’s like a south London Beatles. A bold claim. I stand by it.

Opening with the ‘Gentle Flower’, it’s a slow burner that builds to a quiet chorus before erupting into the second verse. From the outset, it’s clear they’ve cleaned up their sludgy sound since their 2017 release, with everything feeling more precise and intricate, even down to the near-strained unclean vocals with which Lukes backs Smith before the first appearance of a delicious three-part harmony appears to close out the track.

It would be understandable for you to worry they had followed Microwave’s latest album in creating a precision based, heavier punk sound but those fears are quickly quashed with ‘Shotgun’ and ‘S.A.D’, two sonically poppy tracks with wonderfully catchy choruses that hide a more reflective meaning, with ‘S.A.D’ being obviously more candid and sombre.

Self-reflection is key to writing honest and heartfelt songs, and these tracks are no exception. Whether dealing with severe depression, a fear of losing people or just general anxiety, everything is approached with arms apart, wounds on show. If see-through skin was a medical condition, you could expect Bellevue Days to be victims, their innards on show physically, as much as their words are metaphorically.

The strength of Blackford’s gentler voice lends itself to the more heartfelt track, with ‘Dashboard Jesus’ being a prime example of being able to take what feels like a troubled confession of depression and anxiety and turning it into an anthem of friendship and patience. We learnt in their Mood Board that this was specifically written in reference to Blackford seeing his friends struggle with their mental health. His ability to build on what he’s seeing and relate it to himself is a strength of both his songwriting and his sensitivity in creating tracks built on other people’s experiences.

Smith has claimed that he’s taken a lot of inspiration from Death Cab For Cutie throughout the album, particularly in his openness to approach difficult personal issues, and nothing is as clear as this as in ‘The Joy Of Living’, with delicate melodies and vocal harmonies that create an almost ghostly echo, mirroring the bittersweet lyrics. A small extract from the track – the idea of a fountain that can bring back memories, followed by the line ‘We can swim, we can drown in the past’, offers a haunting glimpse of looking back at things that aren’t attainable any more. It’s a feeling we can all respond to, countless doubts and regrets that struggle to leave you. It’s testament to their picture painting strengths as writers, lyricists and storytellers.

‘It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever’ has been a long time coming for Bellevue Days. There were questions whether Bellevue Days could live up to the high standards they had set with their previous EPs but any questions can be thrown away. They’ve far surpassed expectations. The honesty and openness coupled with the precision and vocal harmonies somehow create a lightness in the moments of nihilism and deep reflection. It’s the band with their sleeves rolled up high, hearts beating away at their elbow. It’s a late contender for album of the year, and thoroughly deserves any and all plaudits.

ANDY JOICE

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