Taking the name from a track on Arab Strap’s 1998 “Philophobia” album, One Day After School is a project by Wakefield musician Dean Freeman. “The Invisible Anchor”, their inaugural release, comes not so hot on the heels of the “In Skeletal” EP, released just over a year ago.
Although Freeman is responsible for conceiving, writing and performing the album he has drafted in some real talent from a pool of local, national and international musicians (Dan Hayes on drums, Mi Mye’s Jamie Lockheart on Violin and Emma Pollack – The Delagado’s on vocals) to help realise his vision.
In terms of what you are getting as an album here, a number of reviews have used the phrase “post rock”. In truth this says both too much and not enough about an album which has way too much quality, depth and nuance to be so easily pigeon-holed.
It kicks off with “Deep Sleep”; a beautifully composed instrumental put together around a number of piano phrases. It starts with a staccato piano figure and a military drum pattern before exploding into wave after wave of guitars dissolving eventually into an ambient soundscape that would have Nils Frahm turning his head.
“Hammer and Anvil” is perhaps the track that most typifies the tone of the album. A desperate sounding hushed vocal informs us that “We have hostages in the Ministry of Love” and goes on to paint a picture you will be familiar with if you have read Orwell, Huxley or JG Ballard. Although many of the themes raised throughout this album could not be mistaken for “jolly” the music and arrangements are often uplifting and life affirming.
“Arc” begins with and insistent piano figure and Freemans urgent but downbeat lyrics and delivery before kicking its shoes off as he is joined by Emma Pollack for call and response vocals and some sweet harmonies. Elton and Kiki it isn’t but, like all of the tracks on this album, it is superbly composed; it actually “goes somewhere” rather than repeating an idea and following a verse chorus pattern.
The title track “Invisible Anchor” has something of The Manic Street Preachers about it from the buzz of the guitar to the sign-off call of “are you singing with us?” Like many of the tracks this comes across as a snapshot of Freemans influences rather than a cut and paste exercise in nostalgia.
“Becoming Dust” starts off with a staccato guitar line before mixing delicate guitar and piano themes to form an eerie backdrop to Freeman’s opening vocals.
“Between the Frontline and the Cenotaph/Between the memory and the photograph/Between the coalface and the museum/Between the scrapheap and the Colosseum”
The last track is the exquisite 2:28 minute power-pop goodbye of “Escape notes”, all Steve Diggle guitar and a perfect full stop to a remarkable debut album.
Although “The Invisible Anchor” could be described as lyrically and thematically uncompromising it is extremely musical and well put together. The album is as inventive as it is impressive, freeman makes music that never lets go of your attention. He has tremendous song-craft and knows when a song should wig out and when it can melt into a blissful soundscape.
Coming on the back of a number of highly impressive albums on the Philophobia label in the last year “Invisible Anchor” sits comfortably alongside the best of them.