Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Richard Dawson & Circle – Lily

Next up on our Amnesty travels, we stop by Newcastle…


Claire Biddles: As a huge fan of another esoteric rock opera from this year, I should absolutely fit into the target audience for Circle and Richard Dawson’s conceptual collaborative project. But there’s something intangible about “Lily” that I find unconvincing. It isn’t quite committed to the silliness or the self-seriousness of its message (of a nurse’s paranormal encounters) or its medium (folk-prog-metal) so it lands somewhere in the mudded middle for me.

Alex Clifton: Ghost stories with a Belle and Sebastian x Finnish hard rock sensibility? Count me in! “Lily” is just under six minutes long but doesn’t drag itself out — the song keeps moving, things stay interesting. The operatic bits are lovely and spooky, and the song itself is sparse enough for your brain to fill in the details of these weird encounters. As someone who loves paranormal stuff in all forms, finding out a song like this exists is truly exciting.

Ian Mathers: I love a good sub-three minute pop song as much or more than the next person, but I’d also argue songs like “Lily” are great demonstrations of why you sometimes just need more. I’m sure some elements (the endless, kind of chooglin’ churn of Circle’s backing, Dawson’s keening vocals on the chorus, the bit near the end I’m calling the “barbaric yawp” section) are pretty hit or miss for many listeners, but if you’re at all on board with an album of “hypno-folk-metal” songs about sacred plants through history in which, and I cannot stress this enough, “Lily” is the shortest song, that groove and those yelped refrains do in fact need six minutes to really work themselves in. There’s a greatness to hearing a song that makes you feel like maybe everyone could love it — and there’s also a greatness to hearing a song where you instantly feel like most people are going to scoff but it’s hitting you just right.

Nortey Dowuona: This loping bass line carries this otherwise unadorned song. Without it, the witch doctor yelping in the chorus and the tightly ticking stories of the ghosts Richard once saw every day as he worked are otherwise regarded as thin, grey soup of Starbucks Blues. But that bassline, slowly stalking through the grassy guitars and thin, splintered drums beneath the pads of the now racing bass, which as it catches you on the bridge, then rips out your throat. Then all of the sudden, black lights flash in the blue sky, summoning the bass away to another prey, as you lie there, the witch doctor circle singing over your now drifting soul.

Iain Mew: The chugging guitars and halting straightforwardness of the delivery set things up perfectly for the story’s ghostly progression. The falsetto breaks through like the pausing of the ordinary. It’s only when it goes full Hammer Horror it outstays its welcome slightly. 

Edward Okulicz: A compelling piece of schlock that takes a bit too long to reach its pinnacle. And it’s quite a pinnacle, not knowing anything about Dawson meant I was totally unprepared for that falsetto to come out of nowhere, like an extremely aggressive spectre. But my tolerance for schlock is fairly low, and though this is somewhat incredible as a theoretical stage show climax, I couldn’t listen to it any more than I have. 

Scott Mildenhall: If you didn’t already know you were dealing with a virtuoso, you should when Richard Dawson pulls out his falsetto. Amid the sludge and murk of “Lily” appears this appropriately ghostly yet wholeheartedly human instrument. It acts as a channel of the essential bleakness and metaphysical mystery of life at the NHS’ extremities, both quotidian and transcendent. As abstruse as it gets, the geographical grounding Dawson gives the song — explicitly and audibly Newcastle — drums home the constancy of its temporal setting. An uplifting and grim story of love, life and dispassion: the same spectres only continue to haunt.

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