Tomorrow Ed Cosens makes his debut onto Sheffield’s music scene with solo album Fortunes Favour, having hereunto forged a successful career as a guitarist and co-songwriter in Reverend and the Makers. Reverend and the Makers are known for their rousing working-class anthems, with the band’s artistry often overshadowed by frontman Jon McClure’s political Twitter tirades. There are admittedly some similarities between the two projects; Cosens’ talk-sing delivery in ‘The Pantomime’ is evocative of a lot of Reverend and the Makers slower songs (such as ‘No Soap (In A Dirty War)’). He was also assisted in the recording room by Rev/Milburn’s Joe Carnall and The Crookes’ Adam Crofts at Giant Wafer Studios in Wales. But for the most part, Cosens successfully carves out a separate space for himself that allows his emotional vulnerability and beautiful balladry to shine.
First up is ‘Running On Empty’, which speaks to the burnout and fatigue we’ve all felt during the pandemic as the central character spirals out of control. The initially slow and simplistic melody builds into a wall of scuzzy guitars and piano, mirroring the protagonist’s internal chaos as the song reaches its dramatic finale. This is followed by the strings-soaked album version of standout track ‘If’ — originally written on acoustic guitar and credited for the overall direction of the record — which is about longing and loss. The simple but catchy b-b-bassline dominates, giving the song a meaty texture, and you’ll be singing along to the chorus within a couple of listens: “How can I let my heartbreak / If I’m breaking it myself?”.
With ‘Last To Know’ we get a heartbreaking portrait of a long-deceived lover, overlaid on a delicate acoustic guitar pattern and more soaring strings. The simple rhyming scheme, with lyrics like “rumours start flying / and you’ve been left crying”, creates a sense that you’ve heard these songs somewhere before. This quality is a double-edged sword: it makes the album almost instantly likeable but also begs the question of what exactly Cosens is offering that’s new; his lyricism walks the thin line between timeless tropes and overdone cliches throughout, not always striking the right balance. In ‘Lovers Blues’, the lovestruck protagonist goes to his doctor and gets diagnosed with a case of the feels, and ‘On The Run’, love is a battlefield, muddy with footsteps of those who’ve already trodden this motif into the ground.data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw==
It’s hard to ignore the fact that a lot of Cosens’ lyrics are rather twee — in the heart-on-sleeve fashion we’re well accustomed to from ’60s and ’70s acts (‘Love Me Do’, anyone?). Indeed, ‘The River’ is a beautiful heartbreak ballad evocative of The Beatles’ ‘Oh! Darling’, and the “Sha-la-la” backing vocals in ‘Lovers Blues’ give the song a retro tint. It’s only around the two-minute mark where we get a slightly heavier guitar solo that we’re brought back into the 21st century.
A solid album midpoint, title track ‘Fortunes Favour’ is built on rhetorical questioning and anaphora: “Was it all that it seemed? Was it all that you thought it would be?”. The staccato piano notes complement Cosens’ vocal as he asks yet more questions: “Will you be my hope again? Will you take my hand? Will you be my friend and alibi?”. With the mysterious figures of the alchemist and the idiot, Cosens creates a degree of intrigue which bleeds into the next track ‘Madeleine’. Cosens also used to play in a band with well-known Sheffield export, Alex Turner, and it’s in ‘Madeleine’ that the similarities to Arctic Monkeys abound; it’s a foreboding, sleazy track that twists the metaphor of love as a drug. It wouldn’t have been out of place on 2013’s AM, the commercial success of which suggests Cosens would do well to dwell in this darker sonic territory with future solo releases. The comparisons don’t end there; the intro of ‘On The Run’ shares a drum pattern with ‘Stuck on the Puzzle’, from Turner’s 2011 Submarine EP.
Soporific album closer ‘Come On In’ is a perfect parcel of sentimentality that neatly encapsulates what Cosens has achieved with this ten-track offering. It’s an intimate, soul-baring record that wears its influences — along with its heart — on its sleeve. It’s probably not going to go down in history as groundbreaking, but nonetheless it’s a refreshing contrast from the Sheffield songwriter’s more macho musical forays with Carnall, McClure and co.
Fortunes Favour is out tomorrow on 9 April, and is available to pre-save or pre-order here.
Words by Beth Kirkbride