22-25 July 2021 Jodrell Bank Observatory

Barry Hyde

Malody, which is no longer a musical about twin girls (one an immortal and the other a vampire), but a rich, buoyant, self-lacerating document of the split in Hyde’s own personality—the title is a combination of the words ‘melody’ and ‘malady’. “

As I went about the task of writing this musical, I realised it wasn’t actually a musical, it was an opera,” he says. “And then I got really ill and thought, calm down, you don’t need to write a musical at all. Just enjoy playing the piano. And that was it.”

The project’s operatic beginnings still linger: the first five tracks constitute the Malody Suite, in which different piano motifs recur as Hyde negotiates the various stages of his illness. He talks about how “Blixer” is so fast, “it burns my arm when I play it, but it has to because I was burning my soul when I was manic.”

The suite’s final track, “Crazy Love,” is special to Hyde because it contains music from the first piece he ever learned on piano, Bach’s “Prelude in C” from The Well Tempered Clavier. Moving into the rest of the album, lead single “Sugar” confronts psychic vampires who leech all your energy, which Hyde admits is directed at himself.

The piece itself was a challenge, demanding an octave-jumping bass part, which earned Hyde complaints from his parents’ neighbours as he practiced all hours. “They were like, ‘Look, Barry’s a great piano player but he really needs to stop playing at 7 a.m.’ That’s what happens when you’re manic—you lose all of your social skills.

Although Malody has an intense and vivid energy, hurtling through the intricacies of Hyde’s mind, it’s also strikingly elegant—a quality enhanced by the addition of a six-piece ensemble. A far cry from the Futureheads’ trailblazing herky-jerky indie hits, the dramatic and moving record establishes Hyde as an idiosyncratic songwriter and pianist who deserves to stand alongside the likes of John Grant, Meilyr Jones, and Perfume Genius. There won’t be another album like it in 2016, and not just because it started life as a vampire musical written in the throes of a profound psychiatric rupture.

Stages

Roots

Days

2016