Boston Manor – ‘Datura’

By Yasmin Brown

Boston Manor’s last full-length record was released during a time that is universally agreed to be “the worst time ever” to have been making music. In May 2020, ‘GLUE’ finally reached our ears but the proceeding tour didn’t take place until almost two years later, a wait so long that the band had time to regroup and release another EP, ‘Desperate Times, Desperate Pleasures’ ahead of its commencement.

This EP saw the band develop even further; if ‘GLUE’ was a direct departure from 2018’s ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’, ‘DT, DP’ saw Boston Manor travel more aggressively down a path towards being the strongest and most authentic they have ever been.

Flash forward to today and the first of what is set to be two parts of the band’s next full length is here. A collection of tracks that are a result of Boston Manor really taking their time, ‘Datura’ is home to their most mature work yet. 

At just eight tracks long, it understandable if you’re feeling a little dubious about this record’s ability to fully satisfy, however the calibre more than impresses and the knowledge that there will soon be more for us to delve into makes it even more gratifying.

The album kicks off with an eerie, intense and slow-paced start to what will prove itself to be a huge record with title track ‘Datura (Dusk)’. The track is a soft intro to this crescendo of a record, home to gentle, yet powerful vocals from front man Henry Cox and a strong beat that drives the track. Electronic elements add texture and depth – the anxiety it induces is apt given the datura plant is used as a poison or hallucinogen in some cultures, giving context to the physiological response the track evokes. 

‘Floodlights in the Square’ follows on smoothly, dirty background riffs introducing the track ahead of the beat kicking in, presenting what is a heavy and dirty yet simultaneously catchy sound. Cox’s voice is more bitter here, better suiting the song’s heavier foundations and lending itself perfectly into ‘Foxglove’.

The first song to be released from the record back in April, ‘Foxglove’ is arguably the album’s pièce de résistance and arguably one of Boston Manor’s best songs to date. Named after a plant that can cause irregular heart function, it only makes sense that it riles you up, makes you doubt yourself, hate yourself and question everything you thought you know all at once. It’s a messy and unnerving concoction of emotion that can only be calmed by a guttural scream, executed in this instance by the second utterance of the line “I don’t deserve it but I savour every touch of your skin” – a cathartic release made for the live show. 

The fact that ‘Foxglove’ is so strong may explain why the subsequent anthemic ‘Passenger’ is sonically, a little weak in comparison as it fails to quite reach your chest in the same, toxic way. Lyrically, however, this one hits hard, with lines alluding to the darker side of fame that is rarely talked about beyond the most notorious of artists and how anonymity no longer feels like a right once you enter the limelight – “’Cause everybody’s so famous / Everything is so heinous / If we leave, would you blame us? / Do you need to know what my name is?”. 

Leaning back into the plant theme, ‘Crocus’ follows, named after a flower that is said to symbolise a new beginning or a rebirth. The song itself is somewhat sultry sounding and at times a little sassy, and lyrically it plays into this concept of new dawn that encompasses the record, aptly suggesting a new start for the band and new hope for the ambition that lives within it. While at times sarcasm seeps through, up until now, this is the most positive track on the record as it takes you through to the dawn of day, inciting hope. It’s a hope that grows as we move into ‘Shelter From the Rain’, the gentle rain sounds reminding you of a safe night tucked up in bed, tucked away from the angry skies outside. It’s the thought of this gloomy night that contributes to the loneliness and despair that this track somewhat inexplicably conjures, the slow build to an overwhelming and almost uncomfortable climax – a throwback to ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ and ‘FY1’ – but within it you’ll once again find hope of a sunnier tomorrow. A rebirth.

It makes sense then that ‘Datura’s’ closing track should be the most positive of them all, as we’ve been taken on a journey from looming darkness to a new light. Amongst the angst, anger and despair, Boston Manor excel at love songs and ‘Inertia’ may be their strongest yet – you can feel the affection in Cox’s vocal tones, telling a story through that alone. The definition of inertia is for something to remain unchanged, and in this instance this relates to a relationship and how despite distance, the love is still there, with the line “I’ve been gone so long / But you are still my home” cementing this sentiment and filling you with warmth that can only be found in the people closest to you.

For a moment, you think this is how the album will finish, but after almost a minute’s silence, the music starts up again with an haunting and jarring instrumental that plays with dystopian sample sounds until the track fades to silence other than birds chirping in direct juxtaposition with the unnatural sounds that preceded it. With the promise of a second part still to come, this untitled hidden track feels like a teaser of that – a taste of all we still have to experience with this unbelievable band.

Boston Manor themselves have noted that this set of songs exists in the dim light between dusk and dawn, and it’s easy to conjure not just that visual but the feelings that go along with it. The underlying anxiety, sadness and fear, but also the hope that a sunrise breeds. While the topics broached are easily transferrable to real life scenarios, this still feels somewhat conceptual and it’s a concept that is executed perfectly. If you thought Boston Manor had already peaked, you were so incredibly wrong.

YASMIN BROWN

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