Sometimes unlikely collaborators can create the most interesting art pieces. Composer Mick Harvey and Author Christopher Richard Barker recently came together to create a brand new concept album, entitled The Fall and Rise of Edgar Bourchier and the Horrors of War. Quite a title, and as you can guess, this album chronicles the life of fictional War Poet Edgar Bourchier and his experiences in World War I. Set to release November 9th through Mute Records, this album marries a myriad of musical styles to bring the character of Bourchier to life in acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which ended World War I on November 11, 1918.
Mick Harvey is best known as a long-time collaborator with Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, but he has also released several solo albums and is a founding member of The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, The Boys Next Door, and more. Author Christopher Richard Barker, on the other hand, created the character of Bourchier and his poetry while crafting his novel The Melancholy Haunting of Nicholas Parkes, and then approached Harvey for help with arranging the scores. The result is a powerful and moving fictional narrative that captures the horrors of war by using both micro and macro perspectives.
Tracks like “Poor Poor Surgeon Tim” and “Softly Spoken Bill” tell through another soldier’s perspective how war can traumatize and destroy a person to their very core. “Pounding for Peace” and “Further Down the Line” take a more all-encompassing approach to storytelling. Many of these tracks draw from Folk and Alternative genres to enhance their story, but those that derive their sound from raw Punk and Post-Punk often feel the most memorable.
While each song features intense and powerful lyrical poetry, certain tracks are backed by such eerie and poignant music from Harvey that Bourchier’s story seems to come to life. “Listen in the Twilight Breeze” is one such track, featuring dreary picked acoustic guitars and a subtle vocal performance with the perfect amount of grit. Though it is one of the most subdued tracks, it manages to hit harder than some its more boisterous counterparts.
Even so, there are still several explosive tracks like lead single “The Lost Bastard Son of War” that manage to stand out among the rest. This track, on the other hand, combines fuzzed out Post-Punk guitars reminiscent of Joy Division with urgent vocals and gun-fire sounds to tell of the anger caused by the pointless waste of life of the Great War.
That same hazy Post-Punk sound carries on through “The Expressionist Tell #1” and “#2,” which repeats the lines like “he’s been terrorized” and “he’s been traumatized” to drive home its message and takes it onto closer “Corpse 564.” This song is much catchier than it has any right to be, closing out the album with a frenzy of guitars and keys as well as ending as abruptly as it began.
Concept albums can often fall flat, but Harvey and Barker’s collaboration melds classic and contemporary music to bring this cohesive fictional war narrative to a new generation, proving that these types of stories are still just as relevant in today’s society. History buffs are sure to find something to enjoy here, but there is plenty to offer the casual listener, as well. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives The Fall and Rise of Edgar Bourchier and the Horrors of War 4 out of 5 stars.