Cover Track Review: National Service: Last January

‘Turning the original into a ghost story wrapped in a musical veil, it’s a melancholic and evocative rework.’

Track Context.
Originally released by The Twilight Sad in 2014, National Service take on Last January, giving it a whole new meaning. Featuring as part of Fierce Panda’s Covid recording sessions, the four piece band join five others, each of which have recorded tracks from home, echoing the impact of the Coronavirus crisis. With the title providing a nod to the beginning of the pandemic, and the track itself holding real poignancy, the reflection of national and global developments a year later is depicted in the most appropriate way.

Cover Track Review
Utilising the themes of loneliness found within The Twilight Sad’s post-punk original, National Service hold a mirror to the isolation that many people currently face. Hitting with real prominence, early phrases such as ‘Without the light’ reflect the darkness of being under lockdown rules once again. Likewise, the rhetoric question ‘won’t you comfort me?’ – which occurs much later in the track – depicts something we all need right now. The sense of relationship between the musicality and life events doesn’t end there though.

Utilising percussive motifs and syncopation to drive the piece forward, this single ultimately has a shoegaze-y quality. A quality that is not lost in the National Service’s interpretation of the piece. Stripped back to its skeleton, acoustic guitar and quivering vocals are placed front and centre. Each bringing a trembling quality, nervousness is felt, while audible string slides between chords on the guitar, put you in close proximity to the band themselves. To manifest such intimacy through a recording is undeniably uncanny.

Influenced by the continuous percussion of the original, National Service have implemented an almost unrelenting rhythmic pattern for the acoustic guitar. Musically encompassing the maddening monotony of lockdown routines, it’s a stylistic and moving stroke. National Service however, have gone one step further, creating a haunting track laden with the recorded sounds of vacant London streets, drum tuning and studio offcuts. Adding a unique edge, these ambient and real-life sounds, which are layered in a truly enhancing way, invite the listener to reminisce on the formally bustling city life and live music venues by laying bare their absence.

In turning the high-energy original into a ghost story wrapped in a musical veil, National Service’s version of Last January is a melancholic and evocative rework.

Feature by Tiegan Wright

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