A remarkable return to form.
It’s not been that long since James Veck-Gilodi found himself uncomfortably thrust into the spotlight, fronting a band he’d hitherto been happier playing a supporting role in. Then again, Deaf Havana were a very different prospect seven years ago.
Watching their collective evolution since – through all the doubts and fears played out in song, on stage and in the spaces in between – has been nothing short of remarkable. All the more so, considering how precarious Deaf Havana as an active, ongoing concern has sometimes seemed, particularly in recent years.
With everything that’s come before, ‘All These Countless Nights’ is a fully-fledged caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis. It’s a thing of subtle beauty, by a band reborn, with a master craftsman at the helm. It’s also a testament to never giving up, and ignoring the devil on your shoulder. Sometimes the things that make you uncomfortable also make you who and what you’re born to be.
Despite the obvious growth involved, fans of the towering creative achievements that were Deaf Havana’s last two albums will find much to enjoy here. Meeting at a sort of halfway point between the expansive reach of ‘Old Souls’ and the homebrewed hustle of ‘Fools And Worthless Liars’, the Kings Lynn lot’s fourth record simply nails what they do best.
There’s a tremendous sense of nuance and balance, which allows the likes of opener ‘Ashes, Ashes’ to build before it explodes. It imbues the verses of ‘Trigger’ with an almost claustrophobic air, making the chorus feel like a triumphant release. They can play it heavy or gently glide on the likes of ‘Fever’ and ‘Sing’. There’s measure and maturity (it’s not a dirty word) on every song, always pushing the melody or the words to the forefront.
And what words. Never one to hold back, James Veck-Gilodi has laid himself bare across these 12 tracks. There are reflective, contemplative notes here, and hints of optimism or nostalgia there. Whereas in the past there was mostly self-loathing soaked in liquor and regret, these songs suggest lessons learned and a clear(er)-headed outlook.
A prime example is the aforementioned ‘Happiness’, a delicate yet emotive gut-punch central to the album’s themes. It sounds full of sorrow, the frontman looking back at all the years of fuck ups found at the bottom of a bottle – and rejecting those same temptations in favour of love. “All the time it takes to build the trust right back up, isn’t worth a single drop or glass of anything / And I don’t want anything, but you” he sings, and it simultaneously feels like a breakthrough, a commitment and a brave as shit sentiment to put on record.
There are several such moments throughout, but a little later on ‘St Paul’s’ when he cries out “I’ve got a past I want to leave behind”, it feels like an apt summation of ‘All These Countless Nights’. It’s an album dripping with class, craft, heart and soul and Deaf Havana’s most accomplished to date – a step out of their comfort zone and a step up in every regard. So, here’s to taking risks…