On this, their third album, The Union have come of age. The World Is Yours finds Luke Morley and Pete Shoulder sounding confident, comfortable and content, and displays a subtle shift in emphasis. It’s most definitely a rock album, but acoustic guitars are everywhere, and sonically nothing is out of bounds.
The total of eight rockers here is par for the course compared to their eponymous debut (2009) and follow-up Siren Song (2011), but with the running order extended to 15 tracks (counting the acoustic instrumental Sawtooth Mountain Ride which opens and closes the album) it means there are six ‘mellower’ tracks.
It’s been suggested before, of course, but there are very definite shades of Led Zeppelin on the canvas here. No one is impersonating anyone – nothing so crass – but Morley and Shoulder sound like they’re enjoying the same kind of prime-of-life trust and telepathy that Page and Plant seemed to enjoy when sitting side-by-side down in that cottage in Wales.
With all due respect to bassist Chris Childs and drummer Dave McCluskey, it’s Shoulder and Morley making this magic happen. They switch from black leather to white silk and sound comfortable in both. Nowhere on the album is that illustrated better than when the menacing title track, a slow burner that veers from leviathan riff to gentle picking, phases and fades into To Say Goodbye, which is fabulously light and folky, mixing great harmonies and a ukulele into what could have been your favourite track on side three of Physical Graffiti. It takes skill to write two songs so dynamically opposed, and class to put them back-to-back.
There are some here (Fading Out Of Love and This Is A London Song) that you could imagine on a Thunder album, but the writing is now just as good when mining the rich seam of Americana. Tonight I’m Alive is poppy and gloriously upbeat; Lost To The Wind is an almost jazzy lament, Marie Celeste a wonderful, bluegrass-style sea shanty; You Can Share My Dreams is a honey-dripping showcase for Shoulder graced by lap-steel guitar.
For all the brilliant bombast of You’re My Jesus (a stomping great riff that’s part Bolan, part Page), the hell-for-leather Wreck My Scene or the pounding rhythms of What Doesn’t Kill You (not a million miles from Zep’s Four Sticks), more often than not it’s the gentler songs and Shoulder’s spellbinding vocals that linger longest.
Overall, this album is a joyous mixture of light and shade that will make your world feel so much brighter.