Perhaps you need Miracle Mile more than you thought.
And what of our heroes? Marcus Cliffe, multi-instrumentalist, studio owner, all round melodic marvel has, amongst other things, toured on and off with Manfred Man, released solo LPs and worked on a musical with Mark Knopfler. Trevor Jones, always with Marcus’ assistance - it would come as no surprise if they finished each other’s sentences (I sort of want them to) - has released a series of solo LPs culminating in 2019s 'Carver’s Law', which have allowed him to step outside the ‘band’ ethos and explore a gentler, more introspective journey.
That tilt towards introspection continues here. It will be no surprise to long-term fans of Jones and Cliffe, and can be measured in rough correlation with the decreasing number of ‘official’ band members over the years. From the fizzing pop of 'Bicycle Thieves' with a full compliment, to the later LPs where the duo made best use of friends and hired hands to conjure music so irresistibly catchy and thought provoking it’s probably illegal. The road now arrives on the windswept shores of East Anglia; East of Ely.
No-one’s Walking John Wayne here, but there’s no less drama. 'Night Wedding' opens like one of Carver's short stories. There’s no disguising the storytelling craft in ‘Well she walked down the aisle with a Scotch in her hand / She was only really there for the wedding band’. The beautiful strings in the middle-eight could have soundtracked Brief Encounter. I don’t have a favourite, but I keep coming back to see how the girl got on.
'Shorebound', a title track of sorts, continues Jones’ penchant for the spoken word in song, in this instance joining with both Marcus and Lucinda Drayton (whose voice in her spoken word verse sounds uncannily like Sarah Cracknell) to extol the virtues of their coastal retreats, retreats where most of the album was conceived and which birthed its title. The song is an anchor around which all the others float. Try getting the ear-worm of a chorus out of your head - you’ve been warned.
If I were to choose a song for the first 7” - ah, those were the days! - it would be 'Chapel Flower Morning'. It’s the most immediate track on the album and reminiscent of 'Limbo' and 'Glow'-era Miracle Mile, with a steadily rising wall of melody that breaks on your shore like a benediction. You’ll have to buy the CD if you want it though; it’s not on the vinyl. Buy both, why don’t you?
Over eight studio albums and a compilation, Miracle Mile have built a beautifully crafted catalogue of articulate, intelligent music. Beautifully rendered, resolutely anti-zeitgeist, often melancholy, always hopeful. They might not be in everyone’s sights, but when you travel under the radar, you can hit the target without being found out. If there’s a sadness in not having been more widely recognised, perhaps we should just be grateful Miracle Mile are here at all. 'East of Ely' is bullseye number nine. Hit the coast roads and rejoice; our happy/sad place is found again.