You might find him playing in a smoky underground backstreet cellar bar in the Spanish quarter of Soho – perhaps Mannette Street, where the San Miguel flows and the tapas are passed around. It’s certainly the image that’s conjured when the Quivering Poets strike up. Not that they have any flamenco tendencies or Catalonian sensibilities to their music as such. It’s more the ghost of a flavour – embittered lyrics sung over the folk-noir of an ensemble of musicians brought together from Barcelona and London by troubadour poet Gabriel Moreno, a veteran of 25 years of the ancient tradition.
Moreno runs The Lantern Society in London, a collection of original and organic songwriters, new and established, talent the only prerequisite. An open mic for the upper echelons of London’s capable. And if that all sounds a bit bohemian, then Moreno’s Quivering Poets don’t do much to dispel the blueprint.
Farewell Belief is the second album by the Poets, although by no means Moreno’s first foray into poetry – he’s had eight collections published in English and Spanish (he hails from Gibraltar). Debut album Love & Decadence cemented the ‘Spanglish’ alliance with his bandmates Adam Beattie, Barbara Bartz, Pablo Campos and Pablo Yupton, a long distance relationship which found common ground on the stages of Europe and has since become immortalised in the studio.
There can be no doubting the integrity of each of these artists on an individual level, or the respect they command on the alternative folk circuit – a quick glance at the portfolio of each gives testament to that. These are poets and musicians of the highest order and the production and arrangements show experience and taste. No, if there remains a question to be answered it is whether The Quivering Poets actually quite pull it off as a band. Whether all the poise and grace in the world can create the awareness of the other necessary to give the listener a sense of the whole that must be the aspiration of any band. On the title track Moreno sings of “going south to sing with Johnny Cash” and for all the flair The Quivering Poets possess in bucket-loads, there’s a little of the raw energy of a Cash missing from Farewell Belief.
In Moreno’s own words: “The music and poetry we favour is part of a deeper will to connect people and counteract individuality, selfishness, ruthless capitalism and the laws of the jungle”. In so far as Farewell Belief is concerned, for all its accomplished polish, maybe a little more connection of people and a little less counteraction of the laws of the jungle would provide the unprocessed union that would promote The Quivering Poets from a great bunch of artists into a truly great band.