According to Will Westerman, aka Westerman, his debut LP ‘Your Hero Is Not Dead’ is “about struggle and release. It’s about being honest about things I find difficult or uncomfortable or unfair and then creating a response, mostly for myself, and then sharing that to make something communal – something that has hope in it”. Over minimal 80s vibes, that flit from soft rock to minimal MOR pop, our protagonist bares a soft underbelly that displays his relatable and honest vulnerability to the world.
Whilst you can’t fault Westerman’s bruised heart approach to his subject matter, the thread bare sonics make for a repetitive and at times tedious listen. A lot of the compositions are mostly hung together by a lonesome guitar line and wafting synths that invoke shoulder pads and cheesy, sepia toned daytime TV dramas. ‘Waiting on Design’ in particular could have easily documented a slow-mo montage from a cookie-cutter 80s soap opera, with visions of a loving couple slowly fading to an image of a lonely man starring out of a rain dappled window. ‘The Line’ could be mistaken for Enya, with its ethereal, floaty arrangements. And this theme is a constant throughout the majority of ‘Your Hero Is Not Dead’s lifespan.
The likes of ‘Paper Dogs’ and ‘Easy Money’ take the minimalism approach to an extreme, as ‘Your Hero Is Not Dead’ is stripped back to a hollow husk, which suits Westerman’s choir boy vocals. With the 80s aesthetic kept to a bare minimum and the focus on textures and our protagonist’s voice, this is where the album comes into its own. On the former, an isolated bass is conjoined with a faint hum and a bevy of crackles and hisses, whereas the latter injects a clutch of sci-fi noises and some plinky-plonky synth work. Fragments of sound pixelate and shatter around an innocent vocal line. Unfortunately, the clunky lyric “worry makes you ill/stay still/now I can have my fill/so I will” lets the side down. The cyclical guitar motif and atmospheric radio chatter on ‘Dream Appropriate’ push the album into the realms of pleasing obscurity as the record gets a tad experimental on this mid-LP interlude.
There’s a catharsis to how Westerman lays out his feelings and this open honesty will create a place of solace for some people to reside in, despite ‘Your Hero Is Not Dead’s execution not quite hitting the mark.
review by Adam Williams
Your Hero Is Not Dead by Westerman is now available via PIAS