I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really get on with Bedford Falls’ first long-player, Savings & Loan, although I’m not able to pinpoint why–it just didn’t do a lot for me. However, Elegant Balloons, which seems to have been years in the making, is a piece of work that is altogether much more immediate with its indie/punk rock tunes flowing from start to finish across a dozen tracks.
Opening with “Cunningham,” a song about finding that special friend that many of us have, the one we turn to, to either keep us grounded or in times of highs and lows, is a massively catchy song with layers and a big sound to it. The title is presumably a nod towards Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, as the lyrics include “and I know these are happy days.” This positivity is quickly lost with “Prick” following on in a much more antagonistic vein to show that there are clearly two sides to any coin and that life is a rollercoaster of emotions.
The sound favored by Bedford Falls can be linked back to a whole host of bands that have relied heavily on melodies, lyrics and strong songwriting and this album has a way of throwing up nods towards those bands without it seeming as if anyone’s back catalogue has been plundered. A quick name check of such bands would include the likes of Husker Du, The Weakerthans, Woolworthy amongst a host of the quality purveyors of indie/punk rock that come to mind. It might seem lazy to pick Hüsker Dü, but there is an undeniable influence there to hear although it isn’t flogged to death and that is to Bedford Falls’ credit.
Tom Willecome certainly has a distinctive and enthralling voice with quite a deep timbre that adds warmth to his delivery. This comes to the fore on songs like the acoustic “The Nearness of You,” which closes the album with a sense of pathos but which is also evident on the bigger productions like “Connor” (easily my favorite track on the album) and “Crockherbton” (a simple yet striking indictment of the capital city of Wales–Crockherbtown being the ancient name for what is now Cardiff’s main city center, home to many drinking establishments that go to make it a popular destination for party goers and piss heads from all over the U.K.).
Throughout the album, backing vocals are heard deep within the mix from Katie Gatt, and these complement Willcome’s voice nicely, but she also takes center stage vocally for “Annabella,” proving that she has enough within her own voice to do so with aplomb.
Ten years into Bedford Falls’ career, Elegant Balloons should be the record that brings much wider acknowledgement and awareness of these South Walians and the obvious abilities that the band possesses. It is a record that has at its heart, a sense of relationships, be they good or bad and it’s clear that Willecome is a man who cherishes those dear to him, whilst being able to leave behind those who might prove to have a negative impact on his life.