Dan Willson sings like a man who’s only ever received party invitations for wakes and funerals.
The Good News of this album is a play on the Good News Bible and as such follows last year’s Religious Songs ep, the title track of which declared: “You’re singing religious songs and getting the words wrong”.
Religious guilt and repression are recurring themes in Good News. The children’s hymn Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam is referenced in Cornflake, a drily witty song about sexual frustration (“I’d do anything to get my dick insider her/But that’s not what she wants to hear me say”) that alludes to the breakfast cereal magnate and lifelong anti-masturbation campaigner John Harvey Kellogg.
Lyrically, Withered Hand's biggest influence is the Silver Jews (death, despair, Jesus and black humour) – it’s probably no coincidence that Smith & Jones Forever by the Silver Jews also uses a hymnal motif; musically, take the Silver Jews’ maudlin alt rock and swap the cowpoke country element for the subtly rich modern Scottish folk of Alasdair Roberts and James Yorkston, and you’ve got Good News, the best British album this year.