Surely it’s a universally acknowledged fact that any album starting with the words “Come let’s light a fire, drink a beer and sing a song” can only be good. Singer/Songwriter Will Varley’s third studio album Postcards From Ursa Minor, released on 30th October ahead of a series of tour dates with the likes of Frank Turner and Skinny Lister, begins with exactly that, and what follows lives up to those wise words brilliantly.
It appears that the state of humanity in the 21st century and life on earth in general is a favourite topic of Varley’s when he’s writing music. Postcards From Ursa Minor is no exception, covering political and social commentary, wit, comedy and general criticism of David Cameron’s Britain. Opening with As For My Soul, a rowdy drinking song guaranteed to have any crowd singing along cheerfully, the pace quickly slows as Varley throws all kinds of sorrowful emotions at us with The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Based on the true story of Jose Matada, a refugee who fell from the landing gear of a British Airways flight as it came into land at Heathrow in 2009 in an attempt to gain entry to the UK, The Man Who Fell To Earth is the highlight of the Album. It’s in stark contrast to both tracks either side of it, but the underlying message of the song is clear, and needs no explanation.
Of course it’s not just The Man Who Fell To Earth that evokes sadness and sorrow in the listener. As always with Varley’s music, there’s plenty of nostalgia and subtle references to times gone past when things were different. From the reference to Kingston’s now defunct Grey Horse pub in light-hearted track Seize the Night (spot the guest appearance by Frank Turner) to a pause for nostalgia in From Halcyon, everything on this album is testament to Varley’s great songwriting skills and his unparalleled ability to command a hugely diverse range of emotions in a short space of time.
There are of course songs which are entirely innocent and deliberately light-hearted, as there always are on Varley’s albums. Talking Cat Blues, a personal favourite if only for the amusing video and the pun that’s so bad it’s good, coupled with Is Anyone Out There?. A tongue-in-cheek call to any alien life forms that might be observing our tiny little planet to help humanity stop destroying itself and our planet, the track was actually broadcast into space by a satellite dish in the US.
Postcards is, simply put, a masterclass in what one man and his guitar can do. Full of highlights and songs that I am convinced will eventually become Varley-classics, this is an album not to be missed. It has a delicate balance of songs that you can have on in the background while scrolling through your newsfeed with other songs that politely command your full and undivided attention.
In the spirit of the album’s opening lyrics, you can light a fire, drink a beer and buy Postcards From Ursa Minor, which is available now on Xtra Mile Recordings. You can also visit his website for more information on his upcoming tour dates, including at Alexandra Palace on 26th November with Skinny Lister and Frank Turner, as well as his headline performance at Scala on 10th February 2016.