Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Somapolis: "Made with obvious love and drive..."

Sixth from enduringly eloquent art-rock artisans

Sweet Billy Pilgrim
(Image: © Press)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

This classy, constantly under-appreciated group – now down to the duo of Tim Elsenburg and Jana Carpenter – redirect their sound without sacrificing epic ambition. This is a fabulous, unapologetic concept album, loosely inspired by Wim Wenders’ graceful 1987 arthouse movie Wings Of Desire, with grandiose themes. Yet it’s also playful, rhythmic and not averse to fun. There are blasts of cheery horns; it induces hip-wiggling as often as it asks the listener to adopt a Rodin’s The Thinker pose.  

The Somapolis of the title is described as a “body of the city, or city of the body” and the record sometimes evokes Prefab Sprout if produced by Cecil B DeMille. The voices of Elsenburg and Carpenter interweave like Paddy McAloon and Wendy Smith of the aforementioned sophisti-poppers: in fact, Carpenter now dominates, which shifts Sweet Billy Pilgrim a fair distance from their 2005 beginnings. Elsenburg’s stentorian contributions still stun, though.

Made with obvious love and drive, this is both intelligent and felt, the dream/ideal of the 80s new pop fully realised, and it can only be hoped that somebody’s still listening.

Buy from Amazon.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.