By Dylan McNally
There is a loneliness that can only be felt by walking through a busy city alone, surrounded by skyscrapers and thousands of other strangers yet feeling completely isolated; there’s probably a German word for it. It’s a feeling that Sorry have masterfully captured on their sophomore album, Anywhere But Here, one that takes all of their experimental pop-rock mastery and adds a big dose of gloom. It’s fitting then, that it’s released on the cusp of winter, just before the clocks go back and the nights get longer. It’s a wintry album, not in the sense of a cosy sit-by-the-fire sort of album, instead it’s a getting-caught-in-the-rain-on-the-commute-home sort of album. And in that sense, the sadness on the album acts as the rain – it soaks you until you’re enveloped in it.
Introduced on their debut 925, Sorry’s genre-smashing formula remains, but the sounds and genres themselves have changed. The songs on Anywhere But Here remain whirlwinds, with ideas fading out just as quickly as they came in, much like their debut, but the sounds are different to that of 925. They move from college radio ready alt-rock through to trip-hop (the latter perhaps being unsurprising, given Portishead’s Adrian Utley is on production duties). Reminders of the bands previous sound does remain, "Willow Tree," for instance seemingly takes inspiration from the bands own "Heather" and "Rock ‘n’ Roll Star" just as much as it does from any outside influences. But heavier subject matter requires a heavier sound, no longer are Sorry recalling tales of nights out, parties and drugs, instead Anywhere But Here sounds like the aftermath; the night bus home.
But it's more than that too – it's heartbreak. It feels like of the two songwriters in the band, that this is Asha Lorenz’s heartbreak, but it is her collaborator and childhood friend, Louis O’Bryen, who sums it up best, ‘there it goes/the life I knew so well/the life that split my heart in two’ he sings on the opening of Tell Me. With Tell Me setting the tone, Lorenz takes the lead, seemingly enveloping herself in the pathetic nature of heartbreak, with O’Bryen reduced to offering commiseration and pity from his backing vocals. Lorenz’s song writing shifts from desperate, naïve, wishful thinking to despair and anger by the end, pausing only slightly on lead single "There’s So Many People That Want To Be Loved" to put herself in other people’s shoes. But even within this, it feels like a desperate, doomed escape, an empathetic sadness towards others in order for Lorenz to forget her own position. Whilst Anywhere But Here may wallow in its heartbreak, the sadness on the album is not overbearing, instead Sorry cleverly tie it, and their many ideas, together through each song’s shared, collective pain – moulding one coherent emotion as opposed to a salvo of despair.
In doing so, there is greater vulnerability than they have shown before, inviting the listener in rather than keeping them at an arm’s length. This is a new side to Sorry, and it’s a welcome development to their songwriting – their eclectic influences remain as do the surprises this throws up, but it feels natural, with each song’s tangents and reprises feeling like the flow of a conversation with an old friend. Whereas 925 was often sarcastic and sardonic, Anywhere But Here is the opposite, embracing every aspect of vulnerability, both for good and for bad – from the enlightening to the pathetic.
Whilst the album is overwhelmingly one of sadness, anger and despair, its highlight is the opener – "Let The Lights On." It is no coincidence that it is the opener, despite it narratively being the end of the emotional journey, the rest of the album recounts what came before, making its initial impact even more powerful. It is an emotional release and the one song on the album that would be at home on the same dancefloors that it demands we ‘leave our love’: an exceptional but deceiving start to an album which doesn’t have many moments like this.
And it is here that lies the genius of Anywhere But Here, it is an album of moments, each song containing many ideas and fragments. But where many bands would let this get away from them, Sorry are able to tie it all together yet it never feels like it gets out of hand. Instead, musically each song is its own world comprised of its own unique elements, which come together to reflect the different stages of heartbreak we hear over the top. The narrative throughout the album may be one of heartbreak, but it is a narrative that changes and shifts, just as the emotions and feelings around a break-up shift and change. This is an album that moves, from despair to anger to acceptance, backed up by sounds that are just as varied. Sorry have tapped into the universal post-breakup feelings and in doing so create a collective catharsis – we may not all be currently experiencing those emotions but crucially, we have. We all know the pain, despair and anger that Lorenz is so viscerally sharing, making them hit home just that bit more over the course of the album. Somewhat surprisingly, given the subject matter, it is not a struggle to listen to nor is it overbearing, and the real brilliance lies in turning these shifting sounds and emotions into a coherent narrative, and not just a narrative but a slightly addictive one at that. It suggests a personal development from the band – I’m not so sure the Sorry of 925 would’ve been as self-assured as to write the songs on Anywhere But Here. They have always been a band confident in their abilities, but there is newfound confidence in this shift in direction – for a band like Sorry you cannot be this vulnerable without an assuredness of its results. From their earliest singles, Sorry have always been an outwardly confident band, Anywhere But Here suggests they just might have internalised some of that.