2019 debut album. Features Rachel Goswell (Slowdive). Also available on CD.
Eponymous album from British duo The Soft Cavalry: Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell, and a debut that could be called a happy accident, a lovers story and a crisis of faith. For Steve Clarke, The Soft Cavalry’s self-titled debut album is equally a labour of love, and the first record he’s masterminded from start to finish, with invaluable contributions from his wife, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, on co-vocals and spiritual/practical guidance, and Steve’s brother Michael, who produced the record.
The Soft Cavalry is a rarity, a musical project that began life on an industrial site in Reading where Steve was introduced to Rachel. A year later, they were living together in Devon, before marrying in 2018. Rachel not only, “turned my world upside-down,” but unwittingly provided, “the catalyst,” for The Soft Cavalry. “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says. “I wish that I could have done this fifteen years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”
‘The Soft Cavalry’ is equally an exercise in creative and personal therapy, as can be said for numerous musicians before them. The band’s music is a particularly British brand of intense cinematic drama. Melodic and timeless, the album lands in the atmospheric dimensions between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and Mansun. A record radiating midlife crisis but equally enormous elation; a helix of fear and hope, aching for resolution. A record Steve emphasises that he “needed” to make. Additionally, the album is a way of rewriting a man’s narrative, and proof that relative late bloomers (Steve was in his late thirties when he made the album) can make the record of their dreams.
‘The Soft Cavalry’ is something of a life’s work – a chance for redemption, a heart-to-heart with the self. ‘Bulletproof’ addresses, “struggle and fear, and making sense of it in your head.” ‘Only In Dreams’ admits, “accepting you’re not the finished article that you’d like to be.” Two brooding epics were fired by his Christian upbringing: ‘The Velvet Fog’ – “my doubts with faith, but not being able to shake off my past, even today” – and ‘The Ever-Turning Wheel’: “always trying to thumb my way back to something I had when I was younger, something simpler.”
If the album has a theme, reckons Steve, “it’s recovery versus new doubt. I’m there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilience’. With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through, and find a level of hope.”
After he and Rachel finished their album, Steve found a name for it, out of thin air: The Soft Cavalry. “I can’t explain its literal meaning,” he says. “It just made sense.” Might Rachel be the cavalry? “Maybe! It would be subconscious, but that makes sense too, strangely.”
The Soft Cavalry will play live, starting around the album release. So, this happy accident, lovers’ story, crisis of faith, labour of love and therapy session is set to continue – Steve’s already got the next instalment written, titled ‘The Lost Decade’. Lost versus found. Recovery versus self-doubt. The Soft Cavalry has arrived.