Not one to agonise over releasing songs into the wild as she knows there will be many others in time, Welles’ output has been beyond steady; as far as Liverpool is concerned, perhaps there is no other artist releasing new music at the same rate.
Having spent the last decade basically being Merseyside’s answer to Robert Pollard, 2022 has arguably been Welles’ most successful year, with the songstress scoring support slots for Jane Weaver, Tim Burgess and, most recently, performing at the Kendall Calling festival.
Following her latest release earlier this year, Othello, Welles returns with her second serving in 2022, Package Holiday.
With a title that you’d imagine may have been worked-shopped by the likes of Jason Williamson, on Package Holiday, once again Welles illuminates the kind of realties that most of us of the working class ilk can relate to.
Starting with In This Room. Here, Welles teleports us back into the ’90s with grainy images of smoke-filled pubs ubiquitous; the only light offered being the glow of the cigarette machine in the corner. It’s unapologetic ’90s homage done very well indeed.
We don’t stay there for long, though. Radio sees Welles calling attention to the impending energy crisis, and her investigation unravels in interesting ways. This time Welles, humour as poignant as ever, urges us to avoid the corporate death trap of radio DJs and the verbal diarrhea many of the fuckers are renown for. The message is simple (“Save electricity/switch off the radio”).
No Claire Welles album is complete without a sense of irony, and with Daiquiri Palace she provides it. Echoing ’80s-era Madonna, this is the same pop goddess that most of us could only gain access to via (you guessed it) the bloody radio!
Then there’s The Church. Welles’ razor-sharp wit is never far away, and here it cuts through the bone, as she shapes up to every deity ever etched in the history books. (“The Church has the power to heal you as long as you remember the words/ So many people will deceive you, it’s enough to drive you berserk.”) Always fearless in cutting across the threshold, she’s not finished there. (“I’m sure that you’re the one for me/ I read the book you see, no return.”)
With the modern age and mental health firmly in the ire on Waiting in the Sun, Welles parts with the one of her most poignant messages in calling out the ills of social media. (“There’s a lot of people who feel so low/ Comparing themselves to people that they don’t know/ But they’re trying their best in this modern world that we’ve created and loathe.”)
It’s stirring stuff if one can get beyond the death scroll and, speaking of, there’s a loose connection to it with the pop lament that is Sport. This is Claire Welles full steam ahead, touching on similar themes during Othello’s Snooker. Here Sky Sports News culture is put to task, with hours on end for that (not so) elusive yellow strip containing breaking news. In fact this pastime was probably the precursor for the aforementioned death scroll.
Blending dry humour with real life issues, Welles has always created songs that contain fascinating ambiguity. To the point where the above takes could well be a complete load of horseshit. This is the beauty of art, though: we can make our own interpretations and draw our own conclusions from it.
In any case, one thing’s for sure. Package Holiday is the kind of rounded Claire Welles release that may just be a nice place to start for those not yet acquainted with her work. With a pop sheen that’s as accessible as anything she’s released, Package Holiday rounds off a fine year for the songwriter.
Package Holiday is out now. Purchase from Bandcamp.