Post Maccabee life has proved to be good for all former members, Rupert Jarvis tied the knot, Felix turned his hand to radio presenting and developing a record label and Hugo has expanded his knowledge as a record producer. However, Orlando Weeks has arguably taken on the biggest challenge possible, to write and self illustrate a novel. ‘The Gritterman’ comes after many years of work for the singer turned author, his debut book has been kept secret for many months, behind closed doors, whilst planning the bands final tour, Orlando was signing off the final cover and illustrations then quickly jetting off to Ally Pally to play to thousands of adoring fans hours later.
Set in a small English town, The Girtterman follows an old man near retirement who runs an ice cream van, come gritting van as soon as Winter’s chill touches the roads. He is a hero who seeks to cure commuters of their snowy travels, with his job nearing its end, he sets out for one last trip on December the 24th.
Alongside the publication, Weeks has released an accompanying album which runs alongside the novel as you read. Containing commentary from Paul Whitehouse who narrates as the protagonist, it’s an icy, slivery cold soundtrack, similar to the subject matter. If Orlando was to paint scenes with words, ‘The Gritterman’ would be a hot drink on your return home from a day out in the cold, it would be the embrace of those you love and the feeling of lying in a warm bed whilst the rain pounds on the window outside.
The first track, aptly titled ‘Intro’ begins with Orlando playing simple piano lines which are then built and thickened with the addition of an acoustic guitar and synthesised vocals. The melody intensifies and builds to become more dramatic and thicker as the piano takes a dark turn which then quickly softens as the familiar, iconic voice of Paul Whitehouse cuts in to announce the book.
‘Chimes’ sets out the basis of the story, many of the tracks within this album are Whitehouse’s voice set to Week’s playing, this makes reading along with the book a comfort and emphasises the reading experience. The melody works alongside faint harmonies which begin sweet and mellow but quickly grow more and more dramatic as the character’s backstory is further revealed and exposed.
Weeks has stated it was the track, ‘Seasonal Hero’, that started off the whole project after he wrote it during a writing session, its lyrics will reduce you to tears as they reveal the loss of a loved one and list all the quirks you’ll miss about their character. Orlando’s voice is warming whilst the minor key piano melody is sugary sweet yet tinged with an underlying hints of sadness. Light flickers of guitar distortion run through the track, building it and expanding the tracks possibilities. There’s a certain air to the track, a calmness which soothes and eases the said sadness within the lyrics.
‘Night Work, is the only track on the album that features no narration from Paul Whitehouse, allowing Orlando to take a centre stage for a whole three minutes, displaying his sheer talent as a solo artist of somewhat. The track begins with a definite movement and rhythm as shakers texture the melody, creating layers that fit alongside his vocal and piano lines. The blue melody connects with his silvery, soft vocals, mixing together perfectly. The piano melody, grows in volume and confidence as the percussion is dropped. Throughout it all, Orlando’s voice and lyrics remain the soul focus of the track, its soothing tones fight and demand for your attention, the lyrics are endearing, charming and delightful, they’re bright, light and airy, acting as a pick up from the heavy, story laden tracks previously heard.
The final track, ‘When All Is Said And Done’ is bittersweet, the story comes to an end between the listener and The Gritterman, a character we’ve become well accustomed to, we develop a relationship with him during this story created by Orlando Weeks and feel we know all about his life. The final track is euphoric, lyrics turning positive and optimistic about the future lead by the character. It’s the perfect closing track, coming to the ideal end and combining all elements from the album, all the sparkles, all the glitter and all the joy that runs deep and vast within this record.
This is undoubtedly one of the most touching albums of the year and I can think of no one better to create it than Orlando Weeks. His sheer talent and skill honed into one big body of work, all illustration, lyrics, writing and sonics created solely by him, words lack how beautiful, sublime and magnificent this album is. It’s the most perfect collection of work for all ages, from your 3 year old cousin to your 70 year old grandfather, Orlando has succeeded where most authors fail, he’s created a story that attracts and entices people of all ages, it’s charming and a piece of work that will never lose its power to both warm your heart and break it simultaneously.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF ORLANDO WEEKS FACEBOOK