Shoving off the crooner style which guided him so well and attempting to return to his Longpigs and Pulp guitarist roots, Richard Hawley chases off on a wild, brief journey. Let him have it. After a near-decade of soft guitar tracks which saw him compared, physically and musically, to the likes of Elvis Presley, his desire to make a heavy guitar piece bubbled and bubbled. Standing at the Sky’s Edge is far from his best work – not just because it is not what Hawley is best at – but this avenue was a necessary one, a clean break from a musical style which serves him and his listeners well. Lingering Truelove’s Gutter influences on the crashes and whines of the opening track She Brings the Sunlight can be heard, but to expect more of the same after four years absent is foolish.
Transitional opener She Brings the Sunlight may be, it still has the romanticism at the core of each Hawley record. This time, its conclusion is replaced by wildcard guitar work from Shez Sheridan, a welcome departure from the usual structure of the records preceding it. Preference matters not when the pace-changing variety on display throughout this one is so special. Titular track Standing at the Sky’s Edge certainly appeals more in a live environment when spontaneity can take hold – just dive into Live at the Piece Hall for evidence of this – but it works well as one of the many lengthy and guitar-driven tracks featured. Instrumentally heavy moments on Standing at the Sky’s Edge prove taxing or limited from time to time. Speaking of, the seasonal bridge of Time Will bring You Winter.
Blink and you’ll miss the rest of the record. Seek It is a delightful but forgettable bit – as is Down in the Woods. For all the tracks from this record bleeding their way into the live presence Hawley now holds, there are not too many blinders. Don’t Stare At the Sun is the last of the great tracks featured here, a tender and skilful piece which has aged thoroughly well. A final trio of tracks where the mixing is instrumentally driven but sloppy gives Standing at the Sky’s Edge a half-baked feel. Even then, it is elevated somewhat by the striking lyrics at play, as ever. Leave Your Body Behind You is a cacophony of noise, ending with wails, sirens and cries which appear to be sprinkled in without much thought for where it goes or what it will obscure.
Even then, absolute closer and ill-forgotten Before steadies course with time to spare. Standing at the Sky’s Edge suffers much the same troubles as Further – its guitar-heavy style is well-intended but not executed as strongly or interestingly as the crooner rock or tender guitar licks of old. No time for the past though, steam on to the future and rumble forward. It is held to a higher standard for listeners to know what Hawley is capable of – and this is below par for the man himself. Still an exceptional listen, his work is far better than those cut from the same cloth, but there is a lacking feel to this record which has never quite been plugged up to the same standard as Lady’s Bridge or those other guitar-heavy songs on follow-up record, Hollow Meadows.