Release Date: May 20, 2014
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Best known for 2007 single ‘People Help The People’, Bolton’s Simon Aldred stretched his wings last year with a lovelorn set of electronica under the name of Out Cold, but here he returns to his country-hued roots as the one-man Elbow who occasionally nudges the tempo over 80bpm. ‘Herd Runners’ is a romantic album, stuffed with fond reminiscences (the steel guitar-brushed title track), heartbreak (the fluid, Philly soul-influenced ‘Don’t Leave Me Here Alone’) and slivers of hope (the prettily ramshackle ‘The World Could Turn’), without ever sounding soppy. Maybe it’s a northern thing.
Before we start, a couple of facts about Cherry Ghost and their frontman Simon Aldred. Not only did he inadvertently help to usher in the ‘New Boring’ era when Birdy covered the Ivor Novello winning ‘People Help The People’, he’s gone on to become a songwriter-for-hire for for the likes of Sam Smith (track four on Smith’s soon to be released debut, if you were curious). You might not think that these facts would have any particular bearing on the content of Herd Runners - but they might help to explain why Herd Runners opener ‘Clear Skies Ever Closer’ has the air of a Take That song.
Cherry Ghost’s Simon Aldred finds himself in a funny position leading up to the release of his third LP Herd Runners. Since 2010’s Beneath This Burning Shoreline, he’s written songs for successful emerging artists such as Sam Smith and taken more of a withdrawn role in the music industry. Most significantly though, Birdy took her twee version of “People Help the People” to higher chart positions than Aldred himself ever achieved.
The third outing for Simon Aldred under the Cherry Ghost moniker, Herd Runners finds the melancholic Northern Englishman scaling back some of the alt-rock muscle of 2010's Beneath This Burning Shoreline in favor of a more measured and refined sound that amps up the cinematic aspects of the group. Aldred stocks the record with enough big, sweeping, largely midtempo tales of ruin, reward, sin, stagnation, and salvation to cause the listener to think that they may have inadvertently cued up the latest Richard Hawley album, and they're almost right, as the ten-track collection was guided to port by the sure hands of longtime Hawley producer Colin Elliot. Like Hawley, Aldred has a knack (and the voice) for conjuring up an atmosphere that's both wistful and comforting, like a sick day where you're not too sick to putz about the house, and the album's majestic opening volley, "Clear Skies Ever Closer," with its weepy, MOR strings and soulful, Motown-via-four-lads-from-Liverpool-inspired melody, is pure audio convalescence.
Bolton singer/songwriter Simon Aldred returns to chief band Cherry Ghost for their third album Herd Runners, after various detours including last year’s release under the Out Cold moniker – 11 tracks of “electro-pop soul”. Following the average indie mainstream debut Thirst For Romance in 2007, Aldred took the band in another direction with 2010’s follow up Beneath This Burning Shoreline as songs headed towards the cinematic, arena filling territory occupied by Elbow and Doves. After the distractions of the last four years, Cherry Ghost’s latest effort reflects these diverse directions his life, and music, have since taken as songs take on an easy listening, country tinged, string-backed style at a romantic and forlorn pace similar to early single Mathematics.
History will not be kind to Simon Aldred. He is fated to be remembered as that dude who belted out 'People Help The People', a surprise minor-hit that Britain fell for the way it did 'Mad World': depressing shit, shoved onto a radio of sunnier pop music vying to outshine it. You'd be excused for forgetting about Cherry Ghost on the basis of hearing 'People' fifty times: between its huge piano chords and Aldred's preacher-man vocal performance, it made for an unfortunately placed single, one that sounded like nothing else on the chart it cracked, but was just as easy to overplay.