Of all the indie bands to rise through the flames of lockdown, it was the heart-warming tunes of The Lathums (pronounced: The Lay-thums) which struck a chord like no other.
Part of the jangle-pop band’s appeal was their look, or, at least, their, err, lack of aesthetic. Four outsider (dare we say, unfashionable) working class lads from Wigan creating accessible rock music and rarely straying far from their roots. The music videos furthered their everyman appeal by featuring real people in local markets and cafes. And the lack of pretention didn’t feel like a gimmick. Rather a selling point which came through the music also: direct, honest and incredibly easy on the ear.
Before the pandemic The Lathums were on the road to nowhere. Then The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess heard a recording of early single ‘The Great Escape’ and invited them to play a set at Kendal Calling. The rest, as they say, is history. After a couple of years building a passionate fanbase, they’d play the first non-socially distanced post lockdown gig in Liverpool. Six months after that The Lathums struck gold with the small matter of a UK number one album.
So after being in the whirlwind of prosperity in 2021, the storm has settled. 18 months after their debut they’ve returned with From Nothing To A Little Bit More: a less immediate effort but one worthy of the time and effort required to leave an impact.
The Lathums new one sees frontman Alex Moore go through a journey of heartache, depression and self-acceptance. “All the songs might be about different things,” states Moore in an album press release, but “it always comes back to the same point: pretty dark things”. Where How Beautiful Life Can Be was defined by its bright palette, this record has an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief running throughout.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should lock yourself in a dark room to listen to Nothing To A Little Bit More. There’s still plenty of charm to ride alongside the darkness. Take ‘Sad Face Baby’ – Moore’s opening cry of “I’m lonely at the best of times / I feel so cold, but it’s warm outside” has him as direct as ever. But instead of being bogged down by self-pity, we’re offered a fun, euphoric track with charm running through its veins. Supported by a melancholic guitar riff and rich bassline, the chorus pace picks up and Moore shakes off his sad boy feelings with joyful hysteria (“Jumped up, pumped up, messed up kids / Spilling over drinks, knocking heads over heels / Sad face baby, no sad face girl / In a mixed up, messed up, f***ed up world”). The album’s highpoint by some distance.
On ‘I Know Pt 1’, The Lathums go heavy on a ‘60s-style Motown doo wop sound while ‘Lucky Bean’ continues the happy-go-lucky vibe, the use of trumpets achieving a celebratory tone. Meanwhile, ‘Facets’ wipes away the previous sentimentality with jangle and belligerence – a frenetic guitar solo and Moore’s cries of “it’s here where my heart breaks” resulting in a jubilant final third.
Back in October 2022, ‘Say My Name’ was presented as the album’s first preview track. It was gloomier than what we’d become accustomed – expectation adjustment was required. Described as a “deeply personal” one for Alex Moore, the song tackles the subject of grief and regret. Where at first it struggled to whet our appetites, it finds its place well on the record. And I guess that’s the point: most of these tracks don’t stand out when taken out the context of the record. They’re enjoyed more when absorbed as a whole.
‘Struggle’ is another which could easily have passed you by upon its release as a single, becoming an easy one to skip on new music playlists. Yet you’ll be surprised how refreshing and delightful a curtain raiser this is. Inspired by loss, Moore is open hearted and vulnerable (“Oh I struggle remembering your face / I wake up without a smile on my face / I notice the world’s turning but I’m stood still”) as he reflects on his loss of innocence. What was quick to write off before in isolation, somehow wins you over.
On the penultimate ‘Crying Out’, Moore is doing exactly as the song title suggests. He lets his heartache emotions out and bemoans the end of a toxic relationship. The song labours at first before winning us back round with its gigantic chorus and cries of new romantic desire: “Oh I’m crying out for somebody / For somebody new / For someone like you”.
‘Undeserving’ then acts as the calm after the storm. The acoustic closer is an assured number to leave us on but not without its faults. Moore is alone with his thoughts, though rather than dwell on self-pity, he’s letting go of his heartache. For the most part he succeeds in getting the message across. However, where he keeps you gripped in the first half, it’s difficult not to deny the track outlasts its welcome: a risk you take with an 8 minute long ballad which sonically does little to challenge the listener.
This criticism aside, From Nothing To A Little Bit More is a solid return from The Lathums: darker, rawer and more accomplished. Albeit without the same high points of their debut. Alex Moore portrays himself as a sensitive soul and the empathy you feel towards him is the album’s main strength. Especially as, like before, the tunes are heart-warming and infectious – the boys from Wigan discover a darker route mixed with moments of light. This is all done without losing the everyman appeal which drew so many to them in the first place.