As the last couple of months have provided an abundance of acclaimed releases from established artists and comeback albums from those long forgotten, it’s easy to overlook new artists coming into the game- or those that have passed before they had a chance to emerge. One such act and another exemplar of the growing one-man band trend is Patrick Doyle, otherwise known as Basic Plumbing. Originally the drummer for the band Veronica Falls, Doyle started working under his nom de guerre after moving to London but died in 2018 before he could release any kind of full-length product.
Now come 2020 the entirety of that now-posthumous album Keeping Up Appearances is out in the open. The general mood of the album screams throwback, with the jangly opener “As You Disappear” sounding like “Big Me” from the first Foo Fighters album with trademark sedated Cobain vocals a la “Lithium”. “Lilac” takes the apathetic grungy sound of “As You” and mixes it with staccatos of Doors-like organ for maximum garage cred, while “Keeping Up Appearances” is straight-ahead and fairly catchy while it conveys a major fuck-it-all mood.
“Bad Mood” picks back up on the mid-90s Foo vibes, a comparison compounded by the fact that like Grohl on the ’95 debut, Doyle composed, wrote and recorded Keeping Up entirely by himself spare the bass work of Helen Skinner. “Sunday” ceases all percussive activities until the end, building more layers of guitar on as he goes for a fine, simple tune perfectly suited for a late night open mic. “It All Comes Back” brings back the drums and comes off far more mobile and metropolitan than what the first half of the album has had to offer. In contrast, “Too Slow” is almost like “Polly” with drums, albeit surely peppier despite its lazy day approach.
“Fantasy” once more injects some energy back into things, even if only partially- much of it is standard-issue garage jangle set to fittingly minimal drums. “Constant Attention” treads down much of the same path with a bit of acoustic axe thrown over top for extra chill points, marked by a rather infectious guitar lead throughout the song. “Strangers” is the final track, closer to britpop than grunge for its sunnier guitar progression though differing in its sleepy vocality as opposed to a nasal British whine. The vocals, combined with the basic, ringing chords of Doyle’s guitar and Skinner’s perfectly accompanying bass line make for an entrancing affair, ending the record on a strong, captivating and honourable note for its late primary composer.
Keeping Up Appearances is like many records of its ilk: A showcase of nu-nostalgic experimentation, hankering for long-lost simplicity and manifesting it sonically soothing easiness; both in the sense of the song’s complexity and the spirit conveyed. For purists or those accustomed to harder fare, it can be a difficult thing to indulge in for too long, for it is not innovative, nor does it pose any threat. What it is, however is easily accessible and understandable. It’s the kind of record put together by a person who wanted to live and not cause any harm. If only its creator could have lived to see how the fruits of that labour would pan out.