As the title might suggest, The Lovers is a wholly intimate record, but these lovers aren’t entwined underneath bed sheets or fused by a warm embrace. They have been driven apart, drained of their colour and resigned to the shadows. Where Lone Wolf’s 2010 release The Devil and I was a louder, more dramatic effort, The Lovers puts just as much importance on its negative space as it does on the instrumentation.
The most noticeable difference between this and Paul Marshall’s previous release is the subject matter. The Devil and I spun intricate stories of murder, fire, blood and regret. Now, in the same vein as tourmates Wild Beasts, Marshall has the platform with which he can put forth a more familiar and personal record. Ending around the half-hour mark, the album feels like a chapter of his life, being played in black and white on an old TV set.
The intro skulks into Spies In My Heart, with a jittering guitar line and some explosive synths. The turmoil of a relationship disbanded is evident in the paranoid and pleading chorus: “You’ve got spies in my heart, what have they told you lately?”, and the noise of the synth reinforces the clouded mind of the narrator. Each song following shows a different stage of his thought process as a part of his life dissolves from underneath his feet. As listeners, we are taken through all the motions – confusion and melancholy, denial and acceptance.
Skeletal percussion drives through the album, most notably on lead single Ghosts of Holloway, which sees the narrator start to delegate blame and funnel his emotions. With a casual listen, it’s a sonically pleasing affair with catchy guitar parts and an underlying synth line, but delve into it and you can get caught in the shadows that populate this album. Marshall’s voice is smooth and clear, and his sentiments are apparent in a comforting and relatable way.
As the album progresses, the songs slow down and become increasingly stripped. Good Life mimics the slowing of a heartbeat after a run with its sparse drums and rumbling bass line, the chorus accompanied by the capable voice of Laura Groves, perhaps acting as Marshall’s muse. From here, the songs meander and flake away.Butterfly is bleak in its message and production, and Needles and Threads shows Marshall at his most frustrated, his voice wavering over eerie ambience.
The highlights, though, are the final two songs, the culmination of this chapter. They are a coming to terms, a sigh in defeat, and a reluctant acceptance. The instrumentation is stripped to a bare minimum. The voice in Two Good Lives draws you in only to sucker punch you with a simple organ flourish that is completely beautiful in the company of the silence that surrounds it. Marshall accepts that he is out of love: “It’s been a long time now since we smiled / Our love is a waste of a two good lives”. Then finally, resigned to where this chapter has taken him, Marshall cries in the eponymous closer The Lovers “Now the lovers in my head are waking up”. The chapter ends, the book closes, and the silence stays with you.