(5 / 5)
This one took me by surprise. Didn’t know the band at all; nor just what they are capable of. An outrageously stonking ‘blues and gospel driven rock ‘n’ roll band’ with their seemingly, ‘not so difficult’, second album.
Contemporary, but huge nods to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zepp’, Jack White and the UK’s own The Heavy, too. This lot sound like they are a veteran US band, but are in fact, from a North London council estate.
Michael J Sheehy fronted 90s cult band Dream City Film Club, who dropped three albums on Beggars Banquet, before splitting in 1999. He recorded five solo records, as well as fronting the short lived Saint Silas Intercession, with his brother Patrick McCarthy at his side for the most part. They both come from the same school of hard knocks, North London council estate, Irish Catholic upbringing. They have known drummer Ian Burns since childhood, and all grew up on Saint Silas council estate on Queens Cresent in Kentish Town. For the lifelong friends, music provided a much needed escape from the culture of drugs and violence that had depressed the area.
Michael has had his demons. He spent most of the 90s through to 2011, in a boozy London wilderness. His moment of salvation came when he was rescued by an ambulance crew who dragged him from his burning flat, comatose, alone and pissed as a fart, a frying pan left on the stove. A wake-up call if ever there was one. Sheehy has since cleaned up his act which has brought about a cool and steady focus.
Miraculous Mule formed in 2011: A huge sound for a three-piece; Powerful, aggressive, unrelenting, loud and full of swagger, but at the same time there is light and shade, and perhaps; an underlying vulnerability. For me, one of those moments when you hear something for the first time and know you will never be the same again. Some things you want to “un-see” or “un-hear”. Some things you want much more of, even thought it may well risk addiction. The latter true for me and this bitchin’ album.
“Two Tonne Testimony”, a 10-song set of their own songs, and strong stuff it is too. They are: Michael J Sheehy on lead vocal and guitar, his brother Patrick McCarthy on bass and vocals, along with their childhood friend Ian Burns on drums. This album follows up from their debut album, 2013’s “Deep Fried,” on the celebrated Bronzerat label ((Seasick Steve, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Gemma Ray) and their 2014 mini-album “Blues Uzi”.
Here there’s a core of warped pyscho-gospel (have I just invented a new genre?). There’s almost something deeply disturbing about where this sound is actually coming from when you hear Michael’s pained and screaming vocal – reminiscent of a musical version of the Devil’s voice from deep inside Regan in The Exorcist – and how bleak, black and bloody scary the guitars, bass and drums can get. Not just another album, more a vivid visceral experience. Michael’s is a ‘life well lived and lucky to be alive’ voice and you cannot imagine him ever ending up singing covers in pubs and clubs as an old man, even if things go tits up. He’ll wish to go out in a much bigger way than that.
They give us songs for troubled times, written and recorded over the past two years; the album’s themes are proving to be prescient for the shape of the world in 2017. Track three; “Sound Of The Summer”, starts out as a paean to long, hot sunny days and sticky nights before morphing into a song about civil unrest and the death of protest. “Where Monsters Lead”, was written in response to the rise of far-right demagogues, some two years before the likes of Trump, Farage and their supporters led us off the edge of a cliff. “Daddy Grace”, calls to mind the conniving ways of a snake-oil salesmen, while “They Cut, We Bleed”, attacks the political establishment for a policy that has everything to do with ideology, nothing to do with bringing down the deficit.
For the title track, Sheehy spins a rollercoaster yarn casting himself as a gun-running, drug-dealing, porn-peddling son of Satan who wanders through a world populated by heavily armed outlaw relatives, and a religious cult that commits mass suicide. A plot for the next episode of Eastenders? “Holy Fever” tells a tale of religious hysteria, in which, and I am quoting the band here: “A horny young man finds himself cock-blocked by none other than Jesus Christ”. If that last bit offends, tell them, not me. Or get over yourself! Jim Morrison and The Doors are alive and well on “The Fear”. “We Know About Cha”, is built upon the riff from Motorhead’s anthemic “Ace Of Spades”.
Angry commentary for bleak times…. “It’s rock ‘n’ roll as salvation”! Well, I’ll have me some of that. Miraculous Mule: ……The perfect antidote to Honey fuckin’ G, Jedward and the rest of the talentless X factor cock wombles. “Two Tonne Testimony”…….Towards the top of my “Best Of 2017” list, already. Michael, Patrick and Ian….. Together they make a glorious and unholy noise. But in Miraculous Mule, we trust. Amen. Pass the collection plate….
By Simon Redley
23rd March: The Water Rats, London (Album Launch w/ Swampmother and Jim Jones DJ set)
2nd April: The Bell Inn, Bath (afternoon show!)
6th May: The Grove, Leeds
7th May: The Blues Bar, Harrogate (afternoon show!)
13th May: The Bank Eye, Suffolk
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’