Thirty Years a Raver, Part 4; “Get off of the Railway Track!”

I’ve parked the van on the opening of a farm track, to have a sandwich and scan the area. I’m looking for a quarry which runs alongside the train track. A few years ago, I was a delivery driver, and though I didn’t know the roads, I’d recognise village names with fond memories. On this occasion I’ve turned off through the sleepy Oxfordshire village of Cassington; my memory of it was not so sleepy.

Those reading this too young or not into the south west free party movement of the nineties might wonder why, while those who were will know exactly why, and no doubt will be screaming a delighted, “yes mate, red and blacks!” Later to be referred to as Dennis the Menaces, without concern to what Beano publishers DC Thompson may’ve made of it all.

The distant resonance of an MC echoed through the valley, alas only in my head. “Get off the railway track,” he warned, “that is a live railway track!” A memory abetted by a rave tape capturing the irreplaceable moment, one of thousands I carelessly released into a skip many moons ago, foolish to the notion they’d be sought after.

On rave tapes, we’d either have a “master” or a recorded, taped from Christ knows how many cassettes down the line. Often inaudible by today’s standards, but recorded live at various events, they chartered the era. Endless weekday hours spent cutting up flyers to use as covers, doubles of those already pasted on my bedroom wall. In 1990 I had obtained a few, in the space of a year the wall was covered with them, overlapping to hide the roached edges.

Akin to the accumulation of flyers, my rave tape collection increased like wildfire. From popping into Swindon’s Homeboyz Records, which at the time occupied a loft space in a head shop on Fleet Street, to ask for “the kind of tunes I’ve been hearing at the raves,” in which I was sold two, recorded from Coventry’s Eclipse; Frank De Wulf, and the second, Sasha and Top Buzz, to the point where an entire collapsing shelf was bursting with alphabetically arranged cassette boxes, with the wrong tapes in each. Ah, weekday timewasting activities; we lived for the weekend.

Another delivery driving time, after a few visits to Great Tew, I found the private airfield at Enstone. I recalled arriving there in 1991, one misty morning after a lengthy standoff at Peartree services outside Oxford. These were customary; convoys from every direction flooded in, police would surround them, rumours would circulate they were to search every vehicle moving out, meanwhile the bottleneck swelled, car stereos melded into one colossal clamour as kids danced on the embankments, blowing horns and whistles, undaunted to the likelihood of a tipoff, lawlessness supervened, petrol and spearmint chewing gum went mysteriously missing, and police finally acknowledged they were outnumbered, and allowed free passage out of there.

For the journey my mate spoke of nothing other this track he’d heard. “You remember the don’t talk to strangers’ advert with the boy and his cat, Charlie, went, like, Charlie says……” Yeah, I did, but hadn’t heard the song. Coincidently the DJ spun it as we arrived, and he wasted no time, leaping from the car prior to stopping, yelling “this is it!” and running off headlong into the fog.

I myself got lost in that fog sometime later, asked a friendly crusty if I could climb on his van to see if I could find my friends. The view of synchronised trilby hats and bobbed hair dipping into the low-level mist enticed me to dance, to which he seemed completely content with, as I stomped on top of his van. But as others, noting my joy, decided to do similar, I climbed off, persuading them not to follow my bad example, it was this guy’s home from home.

Charlie did say that, but with these carefree strangers, it didn’t seem to matter, hence the irony in the Prodigy’s song. Everyone had the smile of the Cheshire Cat, everyone would lend you a chewing gum in exchange for a rizla, and right in the moment, that was all that mattered. It was short-lived, a few years of complete bonkers, but it had a profound effect on society. Football fans returned from clubbing the night before, far too intoxicated with love drugs to cause the trouble the sport had become associated with. Football chants were adapted from “you’re going home in a fucking ambulance,” to “you’re going home in a fluffy ambience.”

In a clubland where once, to accidently knock over someone’s pint, or look at their girlfriend for longer than a millisecond, would likely evoke a fight. Now, the clubber sighed, “I know you didn’t mean to spill it, no worries mate,” to which the reply would be “sorry, I’ll get you another.” One clubber said, “is that your girlfriend pal? She’s gorgeous,” and that’d be seen as a compliment, perhaps understandably backed by an informal warning, but it certainly wouldn’t end in a drunken scrap.

Such was the scene expanding, a legendary party at the end of the summer of 91, somewhere near Banbury, extended into a nearby field, with a narrow track joining to two. A continuous stream of pedestrians sauntered to-and-fro, until a BMW hurtled through the wanders. A lone hippy cursed the driver, pleading he slowed down. The car came to a screeching halt and backed up. All four doors opened and some rather mean-looking urbanites, full of sovereign rings and bling stepped out to confront the scrawny fellow. Towering over him, the driver and his passengers asked him to repeat what he said; it was a setting akin to a violent scene of a gangster movie, and the expectant crowd held their breath. The crusty replied he had asked them to slow down, because someone could get hurt. The rude boys considered this, got back into the BMW and drove on, at a snail’s pace all the way to the end, carefully stopping for pedestrians.

An incident I’ll reiterate as an example to how genuinely passive and diplomatic raves were. We policed ourselves, troublemakers were dealt with, often in a medieval fashion. Yet troublemakers were few, unlike nightclubs you had to make reasonable effort to find a party, so most were aligned to the concept we were there for that and only that, to party. So too, if you overstayed a party till its conclusion, you willingly picked up and bin liner and helped clean the area, (okay, there was always a chance of finding some money or hashish, I’ll give you!)

The country suddenly seemed at peace, least it did to us, and the authorities had a problem with this.

There was a frustrated lost terrier, scrambling around in the dark, barking, scared without its owner; it was the Conservative Party. John Major walked into this, and knew if he was to overthrow the shadow of Thatcher, he’d need to take drastic change to society.

Me, my mates? We didn’t give a fuck. Other than the annoyance of the odd rave being broken up, when the police got the itch, we had no political opinion, we had no concern over much at all. Because, we knew there was a happy place, somewhere we could go, freely, and we were in the moment of building our own society, shaped as we wished, policed as we required, but as many adolescent dreams, we thought we knew it all.


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Devizine Proudly Presents Various Artists 4 Julia’s House; Here’s the Track Listing!

Sleeve Notes for our Album 4 Julia’s House

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, I hope! The track listing and details of all our wonderful songs presented on our forthcoming album, Various Artists 4 Julia’s House. Read on in awe….

Pre-order album on Bandcamp here!

Released: 29th June 2021

1. Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall – Julie

2. King Dukes – Dying Man

3. Erin Bardwell – (Like the Reflection on) The Liffey view

4. Timid Deer – The Shallows

5. Duck n Cuvver – Henge of Stone

6. Strange Folk – Glitter

7. Strange Tales – Entropy

8. Paul Lappin – Broken Record

9. Billy Green 3 – I Should be Moved

10. Jon Veale – Flick the Switch

11. Wilding – Falling Dream

12. Barrelhouse – Mainline Voodoo

13. Richard Davis & The Dissidents – Higher Station

14. Tom Harris – Ebb & Flow

15. Will Lawton – Evanescence

16. Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – Dreams Can Come True

17. Kirsty Clinch – Stay With Us

18. Richard Wileman – Pilot

19. Nigel G. Lowndes – Who?

20. Kier Cronin – Crying

21. Sam Bishop – Wild Heart (Live Acoustic)

22. Mr Love & Justice – The Other Side of Here

23. Barmy Park – Oakfield Road

24. The Truzzy Boys – Summer Time

25. Daydream Runaways – Light the Spark

26. Talk in Code – Talk Like That

27. Longcoats – Pretty in Pink

28. Atari Pilot – When We Were Children

29. Andy J Williams – Post Nup

30. The Dirty Smooth – Seed to the Spark

31. SexJazz – Metallic Blue

32. Ruzz Guitar Blues Revue – Hammer Down

33. The Boot Hill All Stars – Monkey in the Hold

34. Mr Tea & The Minions – Mutiny

35. Cosmic Shuffling – Night in Palermo

36. Boom Boom Bang Bang – Blondie & Ska

37. The Birth of Bonoyster – The Way I Like to Be

38. The Oyster – No Love No Law

39. The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show – Ghosts

40. Julie Meikle and Mel Reeves – This Time

41. Cutsmith – Osorio

42. The Tremor Tones – Don’t Darken my Door

43. Big Ship Alliance – All in this Thing Together

44. Neonian – Bubblejet

45. First Born Losers – Ground Loop

I’ll tell you what though, kids. This has been a lot more work than I originally anticipated! Yeah, I figured, just collect some tunes, let the artists do all the hard work and take the credit! But no, mate, wasn’t like that at all. The most important part for me, is ensuring the artists are properly thanked, so, just like those Now, That’s What I Call Music albums, I wanted to write up a full track listing with sleeve notes and links. Please support the artists you like on the album by checking them out, following and liking on social media and buying their music.

But to list all 45 tunes in one article will blow the attention span of the most avid reader, and if, like me, you’ve the attention span of a goldfish, find below the first twenty, and then the next 25 will follow as soon as my writer’s cramp ceases! Just putting them onto the bag was tedious enough, but worth the effort.


To all the artists below, message me if links are incorrect or broken, or if there’s any changes to the details you’d like me to edit, thanks, you blooming superstars.

1- Pete Lamb & Cliff Hall – Julie

Not so much that Julie is similar to Julia, there could be no song more apt to start the album. Something of a local musical legend is Pete Lamb, owner of The Music Workshop, producing and recording local, national and international artists. His career in music stretches back to the sixties, creating such groups as The Colette Cassin Quintet and Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats. Yet it is also his aid to local music which makes him a prominent figure, Kieran J Moore tells how Pete lent him equipment for the first Sheer Music gigs.

Pete Lamb

A wonderful rock n roll ballad with a poignant backstory, Julie was written in remembrance of Pete’s daughter who passed away in 2004 to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was featured on an album for the charity Hope for Tomorrow. The song also features Cliff Hall, keyboardist with the Shadows for many years, playing piano and strings.

Cliff Hall

2 – The King Dukes – Dying Man

Formed in Bristol in April 2019, a merger of a variety of local bands, including Crippled Black Phoenix, Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the John E. Vistic Experience, The King Dukes combine said talent and experience to create a unique, authentic sound, dipped in a heritage reuniting contemporary slices of British RnB with a dollop of Memphis soul.

Dying Man is a prime example, taken from the album Numb Tongues which we fondly reviewed back in the October of 2019. The brilliance of which hasn’t waned for me yet, and isn’t likely to.

The King Dukes

3- Erin Bardwell – (Like the Reflection on) The Liffey

One cannot chat about reggae in Swindon without Erin’s name popping up. Keyboardist in the former ska-revival band, The Skanxters during the nineties, Erin now operates under various guises; the rock steady outfit Erin Bardwell Collective chiefly, experimental dub project Subject A with Dean Sartain, and The Man on the Bridge with ex-Hotknives Dave Clifton, to name but a few.

(Like the Reflection on) The Liffey is an eloquently emotive tune, staunch to the ethos of reggae, yet profoundly unique to appeal further. It is taken from the album Interval, one of two solo ventures for Erin during lockdown.

Erin Bardwell

4 – Timid Deer – The Shallows

My new favourite thing, after noting Timid Deer supported the Lost Trades debut gig at Trowbridge’s Pump. Though self-labelled indie, I was surprised how electronica they are, with a nod to the ninety’s downtempo scene of bands like Morcheeba and Portishead, hold the trip hop element. This Salisbury five-piece consisting of vocalist Naomi Henstridge, keyboardist Tim Milne, Tom Laws on double bass, guitarist Matt Jackson and drummers Chris and Jason Allen have created such an uplifting euphoric sound, hairs stand tall on the back of your neck.   

Taken from the 2019 album Melodies for the Nocturnal Pt. 1, I’m so pleased to present this.

Naomi Henstridge


5- Duck n Cuvver – Henge of Stone

Yes, enthralled to have the song frontman Robert Hardie of Duck n Cuvver refers to as “his baby.” This is Salisbury Celtic roots rock band so aching to film part of their video for Henge of Stone inside Stonehenge, they’ve campaigned for the funds to do it, ending with Rab breaking into the monument to promote the campaign!

With references to the importance of solstice and the pilgrimage to Stonehenge, what other song could be so locally linked?

Duck & Curver

6 – Strange Folk – Glitter

A dark west country folk band in the realm of a beatnik time of yore, with a serious slice of gothic too, Strange Folk came to my attention playing the Vinyl Realm stage at the Devizes Street Festival. Hailing from Hertfordshire, band members also now reside in Somerset, Strange Folk is comprised of four songwriters; vocalist Annalise Spurr, guitarist David Setterfield, Ian Prangnell on bass and backing vocals, and drummer Steve Birkett. Glitter features cello by Helen Robertson, and is a name-your-price gift to fans during lockdown, a wonderful teaser which if you like, and I can’t see why you wouldn’t, you should try the 2014 mini-album Hollow, part one.

Strange Folk

7 – Strange Tales – Entropy

With singer Sally Dobson on the Wiltshire acoustic circuit and the synth/drum programming of Paul Sloots, who resides in West Sussex, catching this duo, Strange Tales live would be a rare opportunity not to be missed. Though their brilliance in melodic, bass and synth-driven goth-punk is captured in the 2018 album Unknown to Science, in which our track Entropy is taken.

Their songs relate baroque cautionary tales drawn from the murkier corners of the human psyche, while retaining a pop sensibility and stripped-down, punk-rock approach. Fans of the darker side of eighties electronica, of Joy Division and Depeche Mode will love this. You can buy this album at Vinyl Realm in Devizes.

Strange Tales; Paul Sloots & Sally Dobson

8- Paul Lappin – Broken Record

Imagine George Harrison present on the Britpop scene, and you’re somewhere lost in Lappin’s world. Paul hails from Swindon originally, but resides mostly in the Occitanie region of the south of France, where he wrote and recorded the mind-blowingly brilliant album The Boy Who Wants to Fly, released in October 2020. Our chosen track, Broken Record was a single just prior, in August, and features Lee Alder – bass guitar, electric guitar, Robert Brian – drums, Jon Buckett – Hammond organ, electric guitar, Paul Lappin – vocals, synths, Lee Moulding – percussion, Harki Popli – table.

Music & lyrics by Paul Lappin ©2020. Recorded at Earthworm Recording Studio, Swindon. Produced & Mixed by Jon Buckett. Mastered by Pete Maher.

Paul Lappin

9- Billy Green 3 – I Should be Moved

Now Devizes-based, Bill Green was a genuine Geordie Britpop article, co-creating the local band Still during those heady nineties. Today his band on the circuit, Billy Green 3 consists also of Harvey Schorah and Neil Hopkins, who’s talents can be witnessed in the awesome album this track comes from, also titled Still. Mastered and produced by Martin Spencer and Matt Clements at Potterne’s Badger Set studio in 2020, it’s wonderfully captures the remnants of the eighties scooter scene in reflected in Britpop.

I’m sure you can buy the album at Vinyl Realm, Devizes; I would if I were you.

Billy Green 3

10- Jon Veale – Flick the Switch

Marlborough guitar tutor, singer-songwriter and bassist of local covers band Humdinger, Jon Veale’s single, Flick the Switch, also illuminated Potterne’s Badger Set studio in August of 2020, and it immediately hits you square in the chops, despite the drums were recorded prior to lockdown, by legend Woody from Bastille, and Jon waited tolerantly for the first lockdown to end before getting Paul Stagg into Martin Spencer’s studio to record the vocals. Glad to have featured it then, even more pleased Jon contributed it to this album.

Jon Veale

11- Wilding – Falling Dream

What can be said which hasn’t about Avebury’s exceptionally talented singer-songwriter George Wilding? A true legend in the making. Now residing in Bristol, George has the backing of some superb musicians to create the force to be reckoned with, Wilding. Perry Sangha assists with writing, as well electric guitar, loads more electric guitars, acoustic guitar, organ and weird synth things. Bassist James Barlow also handles backing vocals and cous cous. Daniel Roe is on drums.

The debut EP, Soul Sucker knocked me for six back in November 2018, as did this here latest single recorded at the elusive Dangerous Dave’s Den, mixed and mastered by Dan Roe, during October last year.

Wilding

12 – Barrelhouse – Mainline Voodoo

One good thing about preparing this album is to hear bands I’ve seen the names of, kicking around, and added to our event guide many times over, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see at a gig. Marlborough-based Barrelhouse is one, and after hearing Mainline Voodoo, I’m intending to make a beeline to a gig. Favourites over at their local festival, MantonFest, headlined Marlborough’s 2019 Christmas Lights Switch-On, and right up my street!

Formed in early 2014, Barrelhouse offer vintage blues and rock classics, heavily influenced by the golden age of Chicago Blues and the early pioneers of the British blues scene, staying true to the essence that made these tunes great and adding their own style of hard-edge groove. Overjoyed to feature Mainline Voodoo, title track from their 2020 album, which broke into the UK’s national Blues Top 40.

Barrelhouse

13 – Richard Davis & The Dissidents – Higher Station (R. Davies)

Absolutely bowled over, I am, to have Swindon’s road-driving rock band with a hint of punk, Richard Davis & The Dissidents send is this exclusive outtake from the Human Traffic album, out now on Bucketfull of Brains. We reviewed it back in December. Recorded at Mooncalf Studios. Produced by Richard Davies, Nick Beere and Tim Emery. If the outtake is this amazing, imagine the album!

Richard Davis & The Dissidents

14 – Tom Harris – Ebb & Flow

Lockdown may’ve delayed new material from Devizes-based progressive-metal five-piece Kinasis, but frontman Tom Harris has sent us something solo, and entirely different. Ebb & Flow is an exclusive track made for this album, a delicate and beautiful strings journey; enjoy.

Tom Harris

15 – Will Lawton & The Alchemists – Evanescence

Wiltshire singer-songwriter, pianist and music therapist Will Lawton, here with his group The Alchemists. A weave of many progressive influences from jazz to folk, Will recently surprised me by telling me drum n bass is among them too. The latest album ‘Salt of the Earth, Vol. 1 (Lockdown)’, is a collection of original poems embedded in meditative piano and ambient soundscapes. But we’ve taken this spellbinding tune from the previous release, Abbey House Session.

Will Lawton

16- Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective – Dreams Can Come True

Hailing from Essex but prevalent on our local live music circuit, with some amazing performances at Devizes’ Southgate, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective offer us this uplifting country-rock/roots anthem, which, after one listen, will see you singing the chorus, guaranteed. It is the finale to their superb 2020 album, Do What you Love.

Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective rocking the Southgate last year

17 – Kirsty Clinch – Stay With Us

If we’ve been massively impressed with Wiltshire’s country sensation, Kirsty Clinch’s new country-pop singles Fit the Shoe, Around and Around, and most recently, Waters Running Low and anticipating her forthcoming album, it’s when we get the golden opportunity to catch her live which is really heart-warming. This older track, recorded at Pete Lamb’s Music Workshop, exemplifies everything amazing about her acoustic live performances, her voice just melts my soul every listen.

Kirsty Clinch


18- Richard Wileman – Pilot

Incredibly prolific, Swindon’s composer Richard Wileman is known for his pre-symphonic rock band Karda Estra. Idols of the Flesh is his latest offering from a discography of sixteen albums, which we reviewed. Along a similar, blissful ethos Richard Wileman served up Arcana in September this year, where this track is taken from. While maintaining a certain ambiance, his own named productions are more conventional than Karda Estra, more attributed to the standard model of popular music, yet with experimental divine folk and prog-rock, think Mike Oldfield, and you’re part-way there.


19 – Nigel G. Lowndes – Who?

Bristol’s Nigel G Lowndes is a one-man variety show. Vaudeville at times, tongue-in-cheek loungeroom art-punk meets country folk; think if Talking Heads met Johnny Cash. Who? is the unreleased 11th track from his album Hello Mystery, we reviewed in March, and we’re glad to present it here.

Nigel G Lowndes

20 – Kier Cronin – Crying

Unsolicited this one was sent, and I love it for its rockabilly reel although a Google search defines this Swindon based singer songwriter as indie/alternative. Obsessed with the music and the joy of writing, Kier told me, “I once had a dream Bruce Springsteen told me to give it up… So, this one’s for you Bruce!” Crying was released as a single in March, also check out his EP of last year called One.


Live Album at the Louisiana with Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue

A cheetah can achieve motorway speeds, but not long enough to get off the slip road; worthless trivia, unless you’re an antelope. I like to think cheetahs listen to rock n roll; no, hear me out. Akin to this feline fact, those RnB and rock n roll classics are one short burst of energy. Fortunately for the artists the 78rpm record lasted a maximum of five minutes, and for radio play they’d cut it to little over three, any longer they surely risk congestive heart failure.

As the era passed to late sixties, psychedelia stretched recorded music to live and extended dimensions Little Richard could never maintain. Mellowing tendency matured rock, but arguably robbed its dynamism. Ah, come the eighties twelve inch single and the mega-mix, prompting the question; why didn’t Glenn Close choose the Jive Bunny to boil?

ruzz2.jpg
Image by 
Jerry Tremaine Photography

Rare then it is, to hear a frenzied traditional rock n roll sound encompass ten minutes; welcome to Ruzz Evans’ world. Embodiment of Johnny B Goode, Ruzz can pick guitar like he’s ringing a bell, for an astounding period too. Due for release on 10th February, but available for pre-order from December 1st, I’ve been adoring this album recorded live at the Louisiana in Ruzz’s hometown of Bristol.

Forgive me for sustaining the rock n roll pigeonhole, for Ruzz has the quiff and is photographed in a teddy boy drape jacket. With backing from an incredible band including drummer Mike Hoddinott and upright bassist Joe Allen, the panache of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue straddles rock and its namesake blues. Since 2016, when they added an awesome horn trio to the roster, we can add big band jazz to their style. That’s my thoughts while absorbed in this, of what Miles Davis did to jazz, or Pink Floyd to prog rock, Ruzz does to traditional rhythm and blues come rock n roll; the result is breath-taking.

ruzz4.jpg

Bearing in mind his voice isn’t growling Tennessean, yet neither was Gene Vincent’s, rather quirky Bristolian, the vocals are sporadic, instruments reign. There’s an amusing conclusion to “Under Your Spell,” where 10 minutes of detonating electric blues is broken by a genuinely surprised thank you from Ruzz in said accent. This often amuses me, pondering, no, thank you, mate, I just clapped, you’ve just held me spellbound for ten minutes, the pleasure is all mine!

revmarch14

In this instance I’m not even there, merely listening on my headphones, but still entranced. While they’re Bristol based Ruzz and his Guitar’s Blues Revue are no strangers here, and you can catch them at the Southgate (Nov 30th), White Swan Trowbridge (tonight 9th Nov) at the R&B bar in March at Devizes Sports Club. I’m quivering, ashamed after hearing this that I’ve not caught them live yet; an offence I will rectify, you would too if you hear this.

ruzz3

Live at the Louisiana explodes from the off; the two, Hold It and Baby Please Come Home, for starters envelope all I’ve said, lively jump blues come big band rock n roll. Catchy, you’ll be lindy hopping before your first sip. Yet if Movin On groovily notches to allegro moderato, Back Home to Stay boogie-woogies again, and Sleepwalk is as dreamy as it suggests. The last two tunes, Sweet as Honey and the aforementioned Under You Spell embrace all we’ve so far said, making this release, I reckon, a treasure; fantastic!

With two self-released studios albums already under their big rockabilly buckles, and opening for Dr Feelgood, The BlockHeads, Kirk Fletcher and Bill Kirchen and Darrel Higham, they’re stamping an authority of quality worldwide. Ruzz has been honoured by being officially endorsed by Gretsch Guitars, and that’s what I perceive of him, the kind of obsessive guy who will turn any conversation to his labour of love, but when it’s this proficient, you cannot help but take heed. I’m off to find out what they can do in the studio, but with such a formula I think this live album captures the spirit perfectly.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Minions, and Mr Tea’s Mutiny

Put the kettle on; Balkan gypsy ska here in Bristol, Mutiny, the new album from Mr Tea & The Minions is a favourite for my best album of the year, with a top hat on.

Impressionable, I creaked the door on a near-expired student party, where a cocktail of Cinzano and shrooms polished off the amateur bassist, and he hung unconscious half off the edge of a sofa in his own puke. I witnessed scholar deprivation; comatose youth, crusty dreadlocks matted into a teetering Christmas tree, and a random arm draped over a guitar amp, howling feedback. I gulped, no partygoer standing, but an erratic noise of a “Red Roses For Me” cassette whirling. Sounds blessing such a character-building eye-opener makes you reconsider your loathing for a particular genre of music.

mr tea2

Until then, my presumption of folk music was pruned from an overwhelming desire to hold primary school sweetheart, Trudi’s hand, and the only foreseeable method to achieve it; to opt for country dancing. Ever frustrated to find myself partnered with dowdy Emma instead, I guess it rubbed a revulsion for frumpy folk music, with its delicate romances of falling autumn leaves and daisies dancing in a spring zephyr. It can be nauseating, symbolic of my failure to caress Trudi’s nail-bitten digits.

The epiphany dusted, I bought the Pouges long-player, shaking my preconception solo until crusties like The Levellers came onto the scene, boiling the realisation folk doesn’t have to be frumpy, in fact, it’s an epoch, a people’s music, and the roots of all that followed owe it. But if that era of recklessly launching yourself around, knocking down parent’s ornaments and calling it dancing has come of age, and if the Pouges are now acceptable, seasonally, (they stole the best Christmas song slot from a band in tartan trozzers and platform shoes after all,) I say unto thee, Mr Tea & the Minions; it’s my new favourite thing.

mr tea5

It’s not an awkward mesh of Despicable Me and the A-Team, rather a contemporary Bristol based, female-fronted six-piece ska-post-punk-folk Balkan-inspired riot, and their new album, Mutiny is beyond blooming gorgeous. Constructed out of lead vocalist and controller of “shaky things,” Elle Ashwell, drummer Fabian Huss, guitarists James Pemberton, James Tomlinson and James (Fold) Talbot on bass, with manager Lucy Razz on violin, they formed six years ago through James’ love of Balkan music. With the edges polished by collaborating with DJ Howla, and James’ professed love of tea, Mr Tea & The Minions was born, a name which they say was “a joke that was never meant to go so far.”

As Balkan, it’s fresh, electrifying and wonderfully danceable. Elle’s gritty shrill is apt and uplifting, the theme is often invitingly saucy, awakeningly tangible, sometimes metaphorically current affairs, but it hardly wanes in energy, and if it does you know it’s building to something. Mutiny is ten songs of splendour, drizzly evening enriching with a gypsy spin. It’s a warm musky pub of yore, where a furtive crusty band jams and you spill your cider on a scraggy dog. It also riffs like ska, boils like The Levellers and rinses fresher than Shane MacGowan on his best hair day.

mrtea3

The Eye of the Storm, like the title track, and Pandemonium are the Fruit Pastels, breezier tempo tunes like the beautifully crafted The Spider and The Fly stun you in anticipation of the melody, but no single tune stands alone, there’s a flow of prog-rock, and if it starts and ends with a little “meow,” it’s never completely nonsensical. Lyrics are sublimely executed, mostly evocative, but dashed with fun. There’s really nought bad I could say about this unique album, I’ll be dancing to it for the foreseeable future, maybe even look up Trudi on Facebook, she can’t still bite her nails.

Somebody local book these, pl-weaseeee; the Southgate or Barge would suit to a, pardon the pun, tea. Yet times are looking good for this madcap band, on the verge of another spectacular festival season and numerous gigs on tour, our closest to date is the Prince Albert Stroud Nov 22nd, Bocabar in Glastonbury on the 9th, or recommended homecoming at the Old Market Assembly, Bristol on 30th Nov. Failing this, try the Mutiny for size.

mrtea4


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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