In Review: Me, Charles - Like and Share
From the depths of South London, ambling up the road, comes Like and Share - the debut album from Me, Charles and one of the stranger sounds to grace 2020 thus far. Me, Charles is the passion project of a Charles Stooke, whose bizarre catalogue first appeared back in August with the release of single, ‘Summer of Hate 18’ – the video for which saw him aimlessly wandering around Mexico City looking for love.
The strangeness of Me, Charles is deployed overtly, it’s there for all to see – along with the healthy measure of tongue-in-cheek which permeates all twelve tracks of the album (along with its instructive title). All this, however, does nothing to eclipse the sheer, superlative musicality of the project as a whole. Like and Share is a rare musical oddity, reminiscent of Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom or Aztec Camera’s High Land, Hard Rain.
There’s an inscrutable honesty to the album. Stooke’s voice carries the thing through with an all-new vocal approach I can only describe as K-hole crooning. The vocal tracks seem meticulously turned out, with careful harmonies bolstering vital sections. Stooke’s delivery fumbles along delicately, each syllable soaking into you like some flooded dose of liquid tranquilliser.
It’s also intensely sad. There’s a feeling of acute melancholia that seeps into the album, and every track subsequently details a retreat from the world in some form or another: whether it’s sliding into the bath in ‘Summer of Hate 18’ or applying disguise make-up in ‘Stupid Boy’. Some songs are so despairing as to verge on the suicidal: ‘Ride or Die’ begins with the line, “I dance with traffic on my way to you”, an introspective darkness masked with terrifyingly cheerful lounge guitar and the sound of passing busses. There’s a broad emotional tapestry to Like and Share, one that carries the listener along with it and goes via dark places.
The single ‘Summer of Hate 18’ is a perfect simulacra of the album itself, because it embodies two of the central themes: loss and regression. Leaving behind, for a moment, the content of the video, ‘Summer of Hate 18’ is a perfect sonic descriptor of the weight of the world becoming too much and despair manifesting itself in a kind of retrogressive infantilism. The song begins, and sounds build on one another, becoming indistinguishable, becoming deafening, then, with the sampled exclamation of a baby, everything drops away and the music is stripped down to a toybox crawl. The lyrics are, at times, absurd almost to the point of Dadaism, “Gather up your spit / See best where you can land it”, but they also confess a story of substance abuse and self-examination “Charlie’s great, Kevin’s lit / But in the end, they’ll just leave you feeling shit.” All this pitted together with the continuous refrain, “And I’m still finding it hard to laugh…”
There’s potential hits in there too. I challenge anyone to check out the single ‘Cry’ (a playful homage to Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’) and resist the chorus immediately burrowing itself into your brain. ‘Stupid Boy’ too, is headachingly catchy, to the point of unwittingly pissing off everyone around you.
Like and Share is an extremely captivating and provocative piece of work; each emotion portrayed masks some hidden counter, jokes secretly disclose despair and visa-versa. It’s lusciously produced and dawns on you slowly – a hidden gem.
Like and Share is out now on Fistbumps.