It is completely unfair to relate the work of a child to that of their parent. But here goes anyway. It barely takes a moment listening to Cancel the Sun, the entertaining new album from The Rails, to be reminded that one half of the band —Kami Thompson — is the daughter of Richard, the British folk-god of Angst.
Consider this scattering of super-gloom from various tracks:
“Call me when it all goes wrong”
“Save the planet, kill yourself”
“Cancel the sun, hello Armageddon”
“I’ve made an appointment with a heartache”
As I said, completely unfair. But it does make a fan of Thompson père smile at the idea that the apple does not fall far from the tree.
Let there be no mistake, however: Cancel The Sun is not an ersatz RT album, even if the other half of The Rails — Kami’s husband and co-lyricist James Walbourne (Son Volt, The Pogues, The Pretenders) — is a pretty mean guitarist like his father-in-law.
What we have here is British folk-rock for a new generation. There are elements of the old stuff (Walbourne can effect a decent nasal twang, for example), but there is also a more modern pop-rock sound to it mixed with some fairly heavy riffs.
Take, for example, “Mossy Well,” a slow folk number with beautiful harmonies and strangled passion about a man who has little time for the new world and would rather drown in drink.
Then there is “The Inheritance,” an anthemic track about the vagaries of love: “My head says run / My heart says stay.”
In a similar vein comes the rocker “Ball and Chain,” about being a slave to passion (possibly a wife, the idiom’s sexist usage, or possibly something like drugs). Here is a man bewailing his being trapped by a weakness he can’t give up.
“Something Is Slipping My Mind” is slower, a cross between a straightforward folk ballad and something pop from the early 1960s.
What really stands out, however, is the desperation about the state of the planet, epitomized by the album cover illustration showing the two balladeers in space suits, tears of blood dripping from their eyes.
The theme will resonate with those in their 20s and 30s who fear our plastic-wrapped world is doomed to rising heat and human extinction — although the song “Dictator” does not let them off the hook with its “Black box generation / Slaves to validation” refrain.
The title track — “Cancel The Sun” — gives a taste with an end-of-the-world pleading (plus fine guitar solo) for the respite of moonlight.
But the killer track is Thompson’s “Save The Planet,” which says humans are the reason all this bad stuff is happening and Mother Earth would be a lot better off if we topped ourselves: “Do the right thing, be a good pal / Kill the light on your way out.”
Dad should be proud.