I have to confess that I found the Welsh alt country trio's debut, The Way Of The World, a steamingly overwritten, self-conscious vanity project stuffed with pretentious references and sung in an overwrought tortured manner that sounded like a bad parody. So, no-one's more surprised than me to discover their follow-up is - while not entirely liberated from some archly posturing lyrics and 'aren't I cultured' namechecks that include Chet Baker, Judy Garland, Magritte and Nabokov - a heady brew of dark and stark romanticism that is frequently so sexually forthright that it makes Alanis seem some shrinking violet. Parental advice labels seem inevitable. The debut earned references to Dylan, Cohen and Brel, but while old Jacques still colours things here the more pervasive influence to poet-novelist-playwright Lyndon Morgans' noirishly eroticised tales of desolate losers, dislocated lovers and marginalised misfits (typically pull of images of drugs, gutters, and cheap motels) would seem to be Henry Miller and the Beat generation writers, most specifically Charles Bukowski, and Alan Ginsberg. Here are tales of drifters looking for, if not love, then at least a moment's contact, the brief warmth of bodies connecting. The Girl On The Escalator at HMV, the Hitcher, the Hat-Check Girl (one of two songs to feature the Margo Timmons meets Marianne Faithful vocals of Suzanne Rhatigan), She Played 'Summertime' (On the Brothel Piano), With Her Pop Art Lips and Cappuccino Skin all involve the characters in either fantasies of romance or doomed fleeting encounters. On Party Frock the singer (and it could be either gender) even asks their unfaithful lover for a blow by blow (and you suspect Morgans intends that orally) account of the sex, if only to feel alive in the voyeurism of the telling. He's not got quite the same dark lyricism as Nick Cave and there feels something forced about lines like "I ...saw the whole secret meaning of my life. When we get home I'm gonna condense it down to a haiku and scrawl it along my veins with a Stanley knife." But set to simple acoustic arrangements that inevitably prompt Nick Drake thoughts with their English leafy almost lullaby folksiness and delivered in that tremulous edge of breakdown voice (imagine the early Dennis Locorriere Dr Hook songs crossed with Vic Chesnutt and Steve Forbert), the gathering poetry of desperation and its observed snapshots becomes hard to resist and sometimes, as on She Hangs In The Dark Like A Saint In The Cathedral and Gigolo Moon where Rhatigan provides a spoken passage that is both erotic and achingly sad, seizes the heart with its ineffable beauty. Now I know how Paul felt on the road to Damascus.

Mike Davies, www.netrhythms.com