NAVIGATOR RECORDS 15.10.12
I spent a lot of time wondering about how to start this review. I find it hard to get massively enthusiastic about Bellowhead’s studio albums because, somehow, I think they never quite capture the exuberance and energy you enjoy when you go to see them live. Don' t misunderstand me, you can still appreciate the skill of the musicians, the cunning arrangements of traditional tunes and the clear enjoyment of their music but I just can't help but feel they are best enjoyed in a small, dark venue where you can get close enough to see fingers dance along fiddles.
So then. What to say of their new offering Broadside? Well, if you had let my toddler review it, she would probably have given it a mixed review given that her feet didn't start tapping until track four! (My girl likes a good foot tapper and something she can jig to). However, a slightly older member of our household pointed out, not all music is for dancing to. I digress. I liked it and it got better with subsequent listenings. I liked it better than some of their earlier albums, Burlesque for one, as I think its more fun and interesting. It opens with quite a heavily rock styled number - Byker Hill - a traditional song from the Northeast. Sounding like a marching anthem come battle cry you are then lead into track two, Old Dun Cow, a tune being leant the necessary dread and horror of the story by heavy brass before breaking unexpectedly into a funky disco beat at the end when the pub in question finally burns down! Made me smile as it reminded me of the venerable drinking establishment of the same name in Durham City. I liked the quirkier offerings on the album, in particular Black Beetle Pies which reminded me of the Munsters theme tune and brought to mind Tim Burton’s dark comedy. You can’t get away from the fact that they also do traditional folk well too, as showcased on Dockside Rant. I could imagine that being played live and the audience bouncing up and down. However, I think the more unusual arrangements grab the attention. I liked What's The Life of a Man. It reminded me of the Tiger Lilys doing Edward Gorey lyrics. It was macabre cabaret. The changes of pace, style and energy were enjoyable. It would give anyone who had never come across the band a damned good idea what they are about but preferably just give me a ticket in my hand for when they next play near me. Now that will be something to write about.