After the self-released debut album “Songs of Loss” (APE Music, 2019), A Permanent Shadow are back with their second longplay, “Humdrum”. As on the first record, the core team that recorded the album were CP Fletcher(vocals), Albert Català (keyboards) and Valentí Nieto (guitars, bass, production). The album was recorded and mixed in Barcelona from December 2019 to December 2020 (with a long COVID-induced break in between). 

Whereas “Songs of Loss” was a concept album disserting different types of loss, “Humdrum” is a thematically more loose affair that tackles various topics, from CP Fletcher’s dislike of the corporate world to ageismself-help gurus and conspiracy theories surrounding the 2011 tsunamis in Japan. One recurring theme is that of longing for a better life and taking wrong turns while trying to accomplish that. Sentiments like envy, disappointment and resentment are amply addressed in the lyrics. 

Musically, “Humdrum” is a continuation of its predecessor, albeit with a stronger emphasis on the dance elements. Songs like the title track, “Corporate #1” or “Play Dead” are strongly indebted to LCD Soundsystem, A Certain Ratio and !!!, whereas others like “Shining Star” or “Beautiful People” display a poppier sheen. 

The latter is one of three songs on the album which were not written by the core trio. “Beautiful People” was composed by CP’s friend Paul Malcolm, a producer and musician in his own right. It’s a witty track about what happens once the beauty’s gone for someone whose accomplishments are based on his looks. “Man from Reno” is a Scott Walker composition that A Permanent Shadow started working on long before Mr Engels’ passing, converting the rather introspective, Goran Bregovic assisted original into a more robust, almost funky beast. There’s also an electronic reading of Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English”, an anti-war song which at forty years of age has lost none of its poignancy. 

“We love doing covers”, points out CP Fletcher. “It’s great fun to take a song you like and turn it upside down”. A Permanent Shadow’s cover of “See The Light” (2019) gained them a nod from its authors, Simple Minds. The Scottish icons shared the track on their social media and proclaimed APS’s version one of the “best covers ever” of one of their songs.

A Permanent Shadow played their debut concert at Barcelona’s Razzmatazzvenue, just days before lockdown in March 2020. With live work out of the question, CP Fletcher turned to composing new music while in isolation, now having another full album ready for recording and a fourth being sketched out. 

But back to “Humdrum”! The first single off the album is called “Shining Star” and comes with a video directed by Dani Moreno, a maker of short films who also directed the four videos for “Songs of Loss” as well as the live visuals. Videos are an important part of the APS aesthetics. “The look and feel of a video should reflect the actual message of the song. It’s not supposed to be a vehicle for me to look cool or interesting”, adds Fletcher. 

So, what are A Permanent Shadow’s expectations for “Humdrum”? “It would be nice if people listened”, quips CP Fletcher. “Let’s face it, whether you are a musician, a painter or a poet, you crave for recognition of one sort or another.” And where do APS position themselves in the current musical climate? “We consider ourselves an album band as we put a lot of thought and work into a song cycle, not just individual tracks. This might be a bit of an anachronism nowadays, but I’m sure there’s still a lot of people out there that appreciate a storyline and a full set of songs as opposed to single tracks on your Spotify list.” 

A Permanent Shadow – a middle-aged album band without a fixed line-up singing songs about a humdrum existence in the age of social media dominance. What can go wrong?