Review Summary: Andy Hull brings his sailor's life to a close and, in doing so, creates his crowning achievement as a musician.
Sailors must surely be forced to deal with immeasurable amounts of stress while being out at sea alone. Loved ones are left ashore, social contact is limited and a large amount of trust is placed in the waters below for safekeeping. With nothing but miles of open ocean to keep one company, the spool of thread that keeps the mind sharp may start to unravel. Andy Hull (of Manchester Orchestra fame) sought out to capture this very experience and channel it into a series of three albums, starting with 2007’s The Bitter End
. 2008’s The Eventually Home
was a substantial improvement on the debut, proving Hull capable of producing quality works in more than one genre. It’s only fitting that The Church of the Good Thief
, the last in Hull’s lo-fi folk trilogy, is the finest of the three and his crowning achievement as a musician.
Right Away, Great Captain! is a large departure from Hull’s work with Manchester Orchestra; the majority of the music is simply vocals and an acoustic guitar. This is Hull at his darkest and most vulnerable, questioning his character’s morals and will to survive amongst other things. A natural progression has been made from the first two albums, as the sailor is starting to resign himself to death instead of simply mourning his situation. The songwriting is phenomenal, with catchy hooks lining every song and a number of memorable lines to be found throughout the lyrics (“Mother, I noticed that one of the men on the cross was allowed to come down.”) There’s a feeling of dread and despair in Hull’s voice that grows larger as his character gets closer to dying, making the experience seem far more real than one might expect prior to listening. The album’s standout track is Fur Stop Caring, a heartfelt ballad that reflects on the sailor’s self-worth and contains one of the more memorable choruses Hull has ever written.
The Church of the Good Thief
is a fantastic finale, capturing every painful emotion that has been building up since The Bitter End
and releasing everything into the wild. Each individual song has its own story to tell, but together they deliver an experience that isn’t easy to come across on a regular basis. Hull’s bitter and desperate tone makes it easy to sympathize with a character who doesn’t even exist, and that is a sign of a truly enveloping listen. The only downside is that there is no story left to tell.