Damp morning, about 3:30am I’m descending Pelch Lane in Seend, like a sack of potatoes dropping. If you don’t know the track it’s a steep one, with a bend which keeps on giving; not the ideal place to whip out your phone and change the tune when you’re pinning down a heavily-ladened milkfloat! So, first taster of the debut album from Trowbridge’s 41 Fords, Not Dead Yet goes on loop, and I shrug, as it’s no hardship, “let it roll for another round.”
I wasn’t sure what to listen to next anyway, and to be honest, this took me by pleasant surprise. Sure, we’ve registered their name on our gig list several occasions, regulars down the trusty Southgate (next date is Saturday 3rd June), but I’ve not had the opportunity to pay them a visit. I see now they’re on the roster for Devizes Scooter Club’s annual rally in July, which if I had of noticed before it might’ve given me a closer inkling what to assume.
But psychobilly was unexpected, neither is it a subgenre which usually floats my boat. Akin to heavy metal, the late-eighties fusion of rockabilly and punk is characterised with negative symbolism; it’s all ultraviolence, death, B-movie horror pastiches, and other delinquent and discouraging subject matters, and I like to think I’m optimistic, least too old, to relish in morbidity.
But if I am to pigeonhole the 41 Fords, it’s unlike the wrecking of The Meteors, or the all-out hellish nature of Demented Are Go, and not as offbeat as the skabilly of Roddy Radiation; this is matured psychobilly with all the negativity stripped away. It retains the lively rockabilly stance, the foot-tapping upright double-bass, the nods to western swing, jump blues and boogie-woogie, and breathing fresh air into it with punk’s insolence, and gypsy folk goodness.
Yet their themes tend on maturing romantic affairs, often generation X mod-pop in nature. And for this blend, it’s truly unique, beguiling and for want of sitting down, you’ll be incapable; my highest point-scoring goes on the sheer energy these guys never seem to let up on.
Recorded at Nine Volt Leap studio in Melksham, Not Dead Yet is out on 1st May, and you really need to look out for this, I bloody love it! To break down exactly why isn’t simple. The album kicks off mod, think hillbilly The Jam with double-bass, perhaps. A girl-infatuation themed Emily, opens, and from the off it’s got me hook, line and sinker. For it’s upbeat throughout, captivating, and optimistic; this is The Housemartins do psychobilly, and I mean this in the best possible taste, for you cannot prevent foot-tapping to Happy Hour, surely?!
The subject of reunion with a former partner is slam-dunked next, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan style, The Great Gatsby offers nothing more than Emily in topic, only the literatural reference. Yet while romance is a running-theme, ballad doesn’t appear in their vocabulary; 41 Fords do not come up for air. Marriage problems raises its ugly head, against a penchant for nightlife in the following track, and another girl’s name title, Tabitha continues this sunny side of the street mood.
If it goes on this leitmotif for a staggering twelve tunes, it all hinges on their magnum-opus for pop catchiness, the fifth tune, Peaky Blinders. Surely anthemic, it takes the humorous route of Del-boy lovable rouges; Chas & Dave does the Cockney Rejects!
Through this three-minute hero, you might wonder if cockney musical hall will continue being cited, but while Not Dead Yet maintains everything which has so far made this album sheer brilliance, 41 Fords swerve gradually into a more Anglo-Irish folk feel, like Shane MacGowan finished his pint and jammed with these Housemartins, doing psychobilly, with an overall Merton Parkas type fusion.
Ah, see now I’m worried I’ve given the impression this is all sounds cluttered, like there’s too much going on, but na, me old China plate, this is flows, smoothly operated with such individuality it’s a tricky one to pin down. If, like me, you’re willing to take onboard the Cramps, and be done with psychobilly, this offers a maturity in themes, wrapped in addictive danceable congeniality.
The Wonder of The Sky is perhaps the standout track towards the finale, for it encompasses everything great about the 41 Fords, who know precisely what buttons to press to write and deliver a pop song with retrospective wow, but refuses commercialisation. It doesn’t verve to create a Stairway to Heaven or a dub-lampoon either, each tune is kept at the three-minute proximity, and each one does what you expect it to do; charges 240 volts into your blue suede shoes!
A Christmas Song, titled thus, finishes, and yeah, it has a Fairy-tale of New York feel, really bringing out the folk oblique which I believe breathes something local into it too, like Somerset’s proclivity for Scrumpy & Western. In all, you could fit 41 Fords into a scooter rally bill, but equally into a Somerset cider brawl with the Boot Hills. And in that, if pigeonholing matters not when you’re in the moment and the music takes you on a dancing voyage, 41 Fords are seamless. This album truly is a must-have.
Bung them a like on Facebook, for updates, and I’ll thread this review with links when the album comes out in May; you’re in for a treat!
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