It’s fair to say that DM Stith and John-Mark Lapham were being somewhat ironic when they chose The Revival Hour for a moniker. An old-fashioned concept whereby self-styled prophets aim to drill the good name of the Lord firmly into their audience’s psyche (“like a hokey praise party”, according to Stith), the religious connotations are given uncomfortable congruence when you learn about the pair’s respective upbringings.
While Stith was raised a Wesleyanist, a Christian movement which required him to have his demons exorcised in church, Lapham was brought up in the Texan town of Abilene (he later escaped to Manchester where he joined The Earlies), a place so right-wing it displays a billboard proudly thanking George W. Bush for all his hard work in office. And if you think that sounds like a pretty intimidating start to life: Stith and Lapham are gay, too. “For both of us,” Stith recently told The Quietus, “the foil for distrusting the church has been through sexuality”. No kidding.
It’s not hard to root out aspects of Christian culture in the duo’s music. ‘Hold Back’ is a gorgeous gospel number which sees a full-bodied choir backing up Stith’s exquisite lead, while ‘Pyre’ is sung from the perspective of a demonically righteous church leader. At all times the music seems like it’s straining to match the sublime sense of scale that church music of all types often aspires to.
Frequently, it surpasses it. Choirs aside, the band employs a raft of musicians, including a brilliant brass section, to achieve a sound that makes you half expect your speakers to start ascending into the sky. On paper it all sounds very Spiritualized, but the music more suggests a mixture of Daniel Rossen‘s (Department of Eagles, Grizzly Bear) singing/songcraft and Elbow’s grandiosity. There’s a real willingness to experiment as well, with all sorts of studio quirks (most notably a disorientating snare delay that periodically crops up on their debut EP, “Clusterchord“) adding depth to a sound that is almost bottomless to begin with.
The result is an EP that is as exhausting as it is excellent, so it’s just as well we’ve got a month or so to prepare ourseves for the band’s debut album, “Scorpio Little Devil”, which is scheduled for release at the beginning of next year. It promises to provide a ‘revival hour’ like none other.