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Albums Of The Week: William The Conqueror | Excuse Me While I Vanish

The U.K. trio's muscular, moody mixture of folk, blues, incie-rock, grunge and more helps make their fully realized fourth full-length album their crowning achievement.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “William The Conqueror’s fourth album finds the U.K. indie-rock trio firing on all cylinders as frontman Ruarri Joseph confronts the thin line between creativity and madness, inspired by compassion for the real-life angels of the world.

Produced by the band in a playground of vintage gear and mixed by Barny Barnicott (Arctic Monkeys, Sam Fender, Kasabian), the album’s 10 tracks marry earworm tunes with insistent, imperious, soaring rock shapes, punctuated by chorus hooks that are simultaneously nuanced and anthemic.

Joseph’s compelling semi-spoken vocals and swamp-blues-meets-Seattle-scuzz guitars are propelled by the rhythm section of Naomi Holmes (bass) and Harry Harding (drums) as Excuse Me While I Vanish delivers an effortlessly winning blend of melody and ensemble dynamics, making for the most accomplished and undeniable William The Conqueror album to date.

Album opener The Puppet and the Puppeteer, the almost talking blues-style verses contrasting with a typically spiralling, heart-warming chorus, explores an internal dialogue theme, an idea bordering on schizophrenia — who controls whom? On the ensuing The Bruises, a song with hints of Pearl Jam and even Roy Orbison in its stately melodic architecture, Joseph sets out his psychological stall more explicitly. “It’s about relationships and vowing to look forward instead of raking over things that ultimately don’t matter.”

Elsewhere, Shots Fired from Heaven — like conspiratorial ‘90s Dylan getting it on with Soundgarden — examines sudden twists of fate while the soaring Somebody Else takes wing on a joyfully vertiginous piano riff and finds Ruarri metaphorically punching the air with a mixture of triumph and relief (“She loves me still / Against all odds, against my will”).

Contrast arrives on the slow, soulful L.W.Y., its succinct but unshakeable chorus oscillating poignantly between the phrases “I’m lost within you / I’m lost without you”. Another engaging detour arrives in the shape of Elsie Friend, evincing Joseph’s late-developing regard for Paul McCartney’s songwriting in its delightfully Beatle-esque melody and the Eleanor Rigby-like parade of characters with which it is populated. “It’s about how little you might know someone for real, yet you construct who you think they are in your head.” A sense of warm redemption emanates from album closer In Your Arms – a song that tips a hat to both Bill Callahan and The Band in its intimate yet hymnal progress. Its aching chorus attests to a sense of deliverance, albeit qualified by a wry note of existential doubt (“In your arms, babe / If just for now”), before everything ascends to a screeching, angular climax riff — expression carried beyond words.

By this point, the album’s winning blend of melody and ensemble dynamics has taken hold, with Joseph’s ability to speak his truth through layers of poetic imagination and projected character.”