Blossoms - Ribbon Around the Bomb review: Exploring a world beyond Stockport

·2-min read
 (Madeleine Penfold)
(Madeleine Penfold)

Lots of bands are proud of their roots, but up to now, few have seemed so much like homebodies as Blossoms. All five members were born in the same hospital in Stockport and attended the same school. The band is named after their local pub, and their greatest moment to date has been a headline show for 15,000 at Stockport County’s football stadium.

Four albums in, however, worldlier influences can’t help but creep in. This one’s title, Ribbon Around the Bomb, was inspired by something singer Tom Ogden heard when visiting Frida Kahlo’s house in Mexico. The recent single Ode to NYC namedrops an array of hot spots in New York, nods at Harry Nilsson’s I Guess the Lord Must be in New York City in the bridge, and canters along in a way that suggests the group are absolutely delighted to be out of northern England.

They’re still in touch with their roots, of course, as they should be. If you follow a line south east out of central Manchester you’ll hit Burnage, birthplace of Oasis, and then Blossoms’ home town, where they developed a similar urge to write big, crowd-uniting indie rock songs. Last autumn they won even more admirers thanks to a highly surprising team-up with Rick Astley for two joyful gigs covering the songs of more Manchester legends, The Smiths.

Ogden is missing the cockiness of Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown and the otherworldliness of young Morrissey, and has sometimes had the air of a youth who won a competition to be a rock star, but he’s a married man now and this album sounds like a mature work. It begins and ends with brief but grandiose instrumental tracks. The title of The Sulking Poet pokes fun at his public image and its jauntiness is a bit sickly, but the words are warmly nostalgic. He also seems to be accepting of the idea that this is going to be his job for life. “Oh, to be alone, roving like a vagabond/I feel so tired, but I’m the writer,” he sings on The Writer, an unadorned acoustic ballad.

From the beginning, the charm of Blossoms has been their willingness to avoid rock star iciness and embrace less hip influences too. Care For sweeps along like something that could join in with the ABBA comeback. The title track is the strongest, strutting past on an easygoing bassline with much woo-ing in the backing vocals. They’re growing up, but haven’t lost sight of what makes them so appealing.


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