It’s all too easy to dismiss the idea of spoken word poetry and music colliding as something novel. In fact, the combination of beat and words is probably more ancient than we know. With their new track ‘Great Coat’, LYR have managed to not only tap into this primordial metre but sprinkle it with the sheen of modernity and, most importantly, made it into a damn fine song.
The novelty of spoken word can still feel a bit difficult for some music lovers to move their heads around but as sentiments change and the need for clarity on content continues to swell, ‘Great Coat’ and the band’s upcoming album Call in the Crash Team—which lands this month—delivers a perfect distillation of the poignancy that poetry and music can provide.
Of course, not everyone is capable of providing such fine stitching of two arts — LYR have some serious credentials in their ranks. Not only do they have the wildly talented Richard Walters and Patrick Pearson creating the beats and music of the project but the words come from none other than Britain’s current Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage.
Armitage has been working as the poetic voice of Britain since 2019 and has already produced ‘Lockdown’ with the backing of LYR in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the band’s support, Armitage’s vivid imagery and connective tone are given more and more canvas on which to paint, a larger gallery for those to attend and allowed the poet’s words to resonate more clearly.
‘Great Coat’ is the latest edition of this structure and sees LYR increase the electricity on the record and speed up the tempo of their output. But while the new song may add a little haste into their step, it does draw on similar values as previous releases. Like the rest of the album, ‘Great Coat’ tells the story of a fictional character, this time escaping the clutches of a dangerous familial situation.
Speaking of the track, the band says, “It’s the monologue of someone trying to come out from under the shadow of a bullying or abusive relationship – perhaps with a father or a brother, whose personality and behaviour are embedded and embodied in the form of an old coat he used to wear. A ‘greatcoat’ — ironically. There are descriptions of the family house: when the narrator makes a return visit, the property is now semi-derelict but the memory appears fully intact.”
The story is expertly told through Amritage’s words but is equally matched with the lush and yet sparse electronic beat that underpins the song. The entire record sees LYR keep themselves at the interchange of genre and musical style, never settling on a particular path they remain open to post-rock noise, electro drudgery and jazz flourishes, all while providing a clear, expertly read and utterly captivating story.
What’s more, the video that comes alongside the song is entirely beguiling. It features a fantastic dance movement that mirrors the story’s many nooks and crannies, peaking and trawling the depths all through a delivery system that feels authentic and attainable.
Simply put, if you were expecting a mawkish and misjudged piece of poetry, overlayed by laptop screeches, tied up with a bow and presented as a spoken word sonic journey then you’ll be disappointed with LYR and ‘Great Coat’. This song proves that when done correctly poetry is still the most powerful piece of art around.