(3 / 5)
It’s tasty, but there’s not enough of it to fill you up. If that was the answer; what was the question? Well, the question would be; what is Reverend and the Maker’s brand new album, “The Death Of A King” like?
A dozen tracks, but only two of them are above three minutes in length and one of those is only a few seconds more. In this age of bite size chunks, and quick fire sound bites; a disposal digtial world, it is good to go back to basics and the old school concept of an album being heard in its entirety and not the odd track cherry picked and downloaded or streamed alone.
The old “rule” was that album tracks could be as long as the artist wanted them to be, and if the suits picked one or two out as singles, then a quick radio edit and job done. But Sheffiel’s Reverend and the Makers – Jon McClure, Ed Cosens, Joe Carnall , Laura McClure and Ryan Jenkinson – ignore convention and deliver just circa 37 minutes of material across 12 cuts (and one of those tracks is music only) on their sixth album, released a week short of the tenth anniversary of the band’s glorious debut album, “The State Of Things”.
This is the follow-up to their acclaimed 2015 album “Mirrors.” That being their fifth consecutive Top 20 UK album. This one was created in Thailand, on a friends and family break, similar to their modus operandi on the last album, which they made in Jamaica. Only band member Laura McClure was absent from this latest trip, being pregnant at the time. The wife of singer John McClure. She did get to sing lead vocals on the closing track, “Black Flowers”, though.
The opening gambit, “Miss Haversham” nails a fine groove. Ensemble chants of “New York” add to the flavour. Puts me in mind of the hypnotic funk of that other superb UK band Alabama 3. This track is over far too soon, at 2.52. A thought that becomes a regular occurrence throughout this album. “Auld Reekie Blues” is the second single lifted from this album. A neat vocal from Eddie Cosens. A 60s guitar band pop vibe. Piano and strings add to the vintage flavours, and stacks of reverb on the “woohh, la la la” backing vocals. Nice. But again, over too soon at 2.34.
“Bang Seray,” a nod to where the band were when they made this album. Thailand. Bridge Over The River Quai meets Massive Attack on an atmospheric instrumental. “Boomerang”, a slinky affair which has a slight Gorillaz / Damon Albarn feel to it. One of the best cuts here. “Too Tough To Die”, the first single from the record. Brash, fuzzed-up guitars and distorted lead vocal on an urgent rocker. Beatles Revolver-era-esque. Another decent groove.
“Carlene”, ends abruptly at one minute dead. Just “Lady Madonna” or Kinks style bar room piano and a lead vocal on this stripped back ditty. “Monkey See, Monkey Do”, another strong cut. Starts off in a kind of acoustic Oasis / Lennon thing and then propels itself into a heavier, leccie guitar piece – and then its’ gone @ 2.32. “Black Cat”, kicks off with early 70s, TV detective show theme tune vibes, before subtle horns sat back in the mix come in. It’s a pleasant cut with a slight Blur flavour. Love the Sheffield accent coming out on “the sun dun’t shine”.
“Autumn Leaves”, features a bombastic electric guitar effect that sounds like Sweep, the puppet from Sooty and Sweep, on acid! “Time Machine”; I like this track a lot. Would make a good single choice. Might have to extend it in length from its current 2.40. Nice vocal phrasing. The penultimate cut, “Juliet Knows”, is an OK acoustic track, with Joe Carnell sharing lead vocal duties. But it features one of my pet hates on a record, in it; whistling….aggghhh.
The proceedings draw to a close with “Black Flowers”, the longest track of the dozen by far, at 9.02. Laura McClure takes the lead vocal here, with a breathy, sultry delivery on a mid-tempo cut. It seems to come in two parts, almost like two different songs glued together. Building in intensity, a cinematic presence. It goes into an ethereal Pink Floyd-ish dream sequence thing at about six mins and 30 seconds. Sounding a tad disjointed.
On the album’s deluxe edition, which the record label did not send me, there are two tracks that feature The Coral’s James Skelly, and Manc’ poet John Cooper Clarke, none of which I have heard. But after hearing the 12 tracks on the standard CD, I am left the same as when I eat Thai food. Not at all full. Wanting more. Out of the dozen tracks, only two are longer than three minutes.
On some of the tracks, it comes across as though the ideas ran out and it’s still a work in progress. Maybe it was just a case of wanting to get back out into the Thai sunshine sooner! They did do additional recording at two studios in Sheffield though. The weather there a lot different, I guess. The record produced by ex-member Dave Sanderson. The album’s title is derived from their arrival at a remote fishing village in Thailand to record and film, to discover the controversial King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, had died that very day.
John always had the idea of creating a musical collective when he formed the band back in 2005, and this was close; taking family and friends to Thailand for the creative process. The wives and kids singing backing vocals across the album and Ryan’s wife playing bass for a tune.
Reverend and the Makers have achieved five UK Top 20 Albums and five Top Five Indie chart singles. Their debut album in 2007 included the UK Top Five single “Heavyweight Champion Of the World.” Second album, “A French Kiss In The Chaos”, followed in 2009 and saw the band supporting Oasis on their final tour at stadiums across the UK. Also, a UK tour with fellow Sheffield bands Arctic Monkeys. The album “@Reverend Makers”, was released in 2012, “Thirty Two” dropped in 2014 and the critically applauded “Mirrors’ in 2015”.
Will this new one do as well as previous releases? Will it chart? Top 20? Who knows? We will see. They still have a large loyal fan base and having seen them on stage last year, they are still great live and giving it their all. But for me, this album is offered to the world sounding only part finished. A case of premature capitulation!
Back to the Thai food theme: A few succulent appetisers, some of it a tad under-cooked, but I am still waiting for the main course…
By Simon Redley
- The band will be at HMV in Sheffield on 22nd September. They have five shows in October and November, with support from Will And The People.
14th Garage, Glasgow
25th Electric Ballroom, London
27th Academy, Sheffield
28th Academy, Sheffield
4th Academy, Manchester
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’