The second album from the band project fronted by Black Starr’s Johnny Black again offers a series of playfully caustic observations on contemporary British life, except this time round the sound often has a harder, rockier edge tempering its country persuasions. Case in point the opening I Think We Need To Talk About Kevin with its stabbing guitar Clash influences, borrowing the title of Leonard Shriver’s novel for a lyric about modern youth’s unhealthy cyber obsessions. There’s a moody blues-rock feel on the Desperate Housewife too, a snapshot of domestic depression and a dead end life for which there no mother’s little helpers, that comes with a snarling guitar solo and, likewise, the percussion-driven Natasha Kaplansky Keeps Singing The Blues, a kindred musical spirit perhaps to Happy Mondays as Black lists the many, many downsides of growing old and “getting checked for lumps and bumps.”
Indeed, quite a few of the songs here deal with the advancing years. One of several twangsome numbers, Mid-Life Crisis pretty much sums itself up in its tale of a married man who “buys a motorbike and grows a goatee beard” in a doomed attempt to recapture his lost youth. Written in response to how the ranks of those rock stars we grew up with are gradually thinning out, soaked with pedal steel, Dropping Like Flies is a honky tonk tune to which those of a certain age will ruefully relate.
But since you can’t hold back the years, then there’s no point moping about it, thus 90s Days To Live a choogling rockabilly riffing blues about being given a terminal diagnosis and resolving to go out in flames.
There are, of course, also a clutch of songs about matters of the heart other than how long it will keep beating. Wailing harmonica and ringing twangy guitars are the order of the day for the Beatles-ish Crazy Jane (And The Lovesick Fool), an influence that spills over into the skip along Revolution. The tale of a bloke too much of a coward to dump his girl in person, I Just Couldn’t Say It To Your Face offers more country twang while they take the pace down for a brace of ballads with the chiming melody of Pushing Me Away’s poignant tale of a relationship in crisis and, shifting the theme, the organ-backed Prove The Doubters Wrong, a defiant song (with a guitar line that I suspect nods to Suspicious Minds) about determining to not live up to everyone’s low expectations, even if that’s easier said than done.
However, they save the best for last and the five-minute Byrdsian circling jangle of Death On The Dance Floor, an account of the humiliation of being given the cold shoulder in trying to chat up some girl at the local dance that will resonate with many, though in the last verse before the lengthy play out they do at least vicariously get their own back.
Ignore the somewhat clunky album title, this is up there with the very best of homegrown Americana and, if they could get some sort of national radio or TV play to provide the incentive to gig beyond their London stomping grounds, they would deservedly develop the following they assuredly warrant.