Meant for the Stage
If The Circle and the Blue Door isn’t a concept album, one can presume that Purson has one in them somewhere. The London five-piece, led by former Ipso Factso frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham, has given their all to this debut release, and that includes pooling influences from all over the rock and roll map with a concentration on the theatrical. Person describes themselves as “Vaudeville Carny Psych,” but that moniker, clever as it may be, sells this band a little short.
We are gently introduced to Blue Door with the light and lovely anti-lullaby “Wake Up Sleepy Head,” and our first taste of Cunningham’s deep voice is anything but soothing. It’s imposing, as if we should anticipate that something terrible is about to happen. Halfway through the “The Contract,” Purson breaks from a lethargic start to the album and finally starts rocking. We have a clearer picture that we may, in fact, be in for something exciting. The songs that follow reveal a group of musicians who are multi-talented and creative. “Spiderwood Farm” and “Leaning on a Bear” echo Pentagram’s penchant for evil riffs. Not to be outdone by their own complexities, “Mavericks and Mystics” is a simple, driving number, and “Sapphire Ward” has touches of Stevie Ray Vaughan-style blues.
These rocking tunes draw you in, but it’s the more elaborate numbers like the pseudo-shanty “Sailor’s Wife’s Lament” and the Bowie-like finale “Tragic Catastrophe” that exemplify what Purson is all about. Throughout Blue Door, Cunningham’s abilities, not just as a vocalist but also as a guitarist and songwriter, shine through. There are times, though, when her gothic, damning delivery is either tiresome or doesn’t fit. In this way, Purson might benefit from stronger backing vocals to help smooth Cunningham’s sharp edges. At twenty-one, though, her ballast is as impressive as her songwriting range. With the way the musical theater landscape has changed in the last decade, don’t be surprised if Purson winds up creating a full-blown stage piece.