On his latest album ‘Springs Eternal’, William Doyle introduces a cast of narrators encountering a dizzying array of issues: global disaster, mental illness, addiction, heartbreak and death. Yet such is the melodic and musical accomplishment that it is a pleasure to accompany these characters on their troubled journeys. Aided by producer Mike Lindsay, who took the controls on Anna B Savage’s magnificent ‘in/FLUX’, the album sees Doyle in a far more direct and song-oriented mood than on its predecessors, ‘Your Wilderness Revisited’ (2019) and ‘Great Spans of Muddy Time’ (2021).

‘Springs Eternal’ starts with birdsong as part of ‘Garden of the Morning’ before Doyle, initially unaccompanied and sounding chorister like, is joined by electronics. The purity of sound is at odds with the potential mayhem about to be unleashed (“rivers gone untangled / inner terrariums overflowing / condensating /waiting to go feral,”) and outbursts of more distorted noises. It is indicative of the unexpected juxtaposition of sounds and language that will flow through the record.

‘Now in Motion’ is a track Doyle describes it as the sound of dominoes tumbling. Musically, it is pitched somewhere between Field Music and 80s chart pop funk on a skid machine. Its comments about human behaviour are pertinent (“ever since evidence was presented we had it filed away to be avoided”), especially applicable to attempts to overlook climate change for so long that it became a climate crisis.

One of a pair of tracks with rhythm beds courtesy of Brian Eno, ‘Relentless Melt’ has a glam riff, moments that sound like a plane taking off and one of the album’s most memorable, harmonious choruses. It highlights one of the album’s most significant traits, managing to be simultaneously direct yet detailed. The title is inspired by the phrase ‘time’s relentless melt’ in Susan Sontag’s essay, ‘On Photography’ in which she speaks of photos freezing a moment in a person’s life. Doyle applies this theory to songs which he thinks of as rooms in which time can be pleasurably distorted. The other Eno rhythm, ‘Surrender Yourself’, has a general frantic pace, choppy riffs which cut out to allow space for harmonies and Alexander Painter’s tootling saxophone.

To a gentle electronic backing, ‘Soft To The Touch’ has the narrator telling of slipping into alcohol abuse to cushion life’s blows, the clarity of his voice adding heft to the tale and the contrast with the starkness of the story being effective. The instrumental discordance that follows the revelation his bank balance is blank is an effective choice. The title track has a rhythmic lightness followed by Painter’s mournful cello outro.

‘Cannot See’ has the air of classic pop while portraying the impact of bad news bombardment (“the ticker gets hysterical / on the rim of morning news / and the glossolalia of the feed becomes profuse”) before growing into an exhilarating stomper. It merges straight into the acoustic guitar of ‘Castawayed’ seeing him “Barefoot in a shallow sea / hunched over LED pictures of me / Narcissus dream”, a song whose drama builds, joined for a waltz by an elegiac clarinet, before ending with the sound of waves.

While much of the album looks at longer-term malaise, its concluding trilogy begins with ‘A Short Illness’ which is immediate and brilliant, its title based on the cliched shorthand of press obituaries. However, it lands too close to home and I do not intend to listen to it again as immersion in music and writing about it is my strategy for distracting from the fear and anxiety of waiting for a first appointment at the cancer clinic. (Subsequent to writing this review, I was delighted to get the all clear at the appointment). More appealingly, the track evolves into the wonky electronics of instrumental, ‘A Long Life’. It ends with the stripped back voice and acoustic guitar of ‘Because of a Dream’, told at the point of death, suggesting everything is an illusion.

‘Springs Eternal’ is an incredibly accomplished and fully realised record, although part of it might not make the best present for friends facing up to a potentially life-altering illness.

William Doyle: Springs Eternal – Out 16th February 2024 (Tough Love)

Doyle – ‘Surrender Yourself’ (Official Audio) (youtube.com)




I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.