record reviews december 2020

TANKUS THE HENGE

Luna Park! (Self-released)

tankus

An ebullient London-based gypsy jazz favouring sextet, their third album, an allegory of the decline in music venues, kicks off with the steady, measured glam rock stomp of God Oil Money as singer Jaz Delorean declares “Love is where we start/Love’s where we end” over the squalling brass. Inspired by as semi-fictional character in Herman Melville’s pre-Moby Dick mystery island novel Typee, Fayaway picks up the pace for a dos of jazzy sixties soul, slowing it all down with the speak-sing cabaret piano ballad Glitterlung, the track building in power and instrumentation as it proceeds. From here it variously embraces the spooked melancholy of Back To You, the Egyptian flavoured swirl and sway tango of Susie Sidewinder, the Ian Dury and the Blockheads-styled funk of Sundance Kid, the more Stevie Wonder-like groove of (Livin’ Like a) Pilgrim), a duet with multi-instrumentalist Joao Mello, and the lazing piano and sax vibe of Worries.

Ending with the lurching, drunken sway of The Only Thing That passes Here Is Time, a brief reprise of Glitterung and, finally, the noisy, busy, drum splattering funk of the title track with its Madness and Kid Creole echoes, this is music for the parties you can presently only hold in your head. Mike Davies


DAN O’FARRELL and the DIFFERENCE ENGINE

Richard Scarry Lied To Me (Garde du Nord)

dan o'f

Opening with a deliberate nod to the Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown on Here It Comes, , former members of 80s Peel-featured outfit Accrington Stanley, Dan and Chris Walsh link forces with double bassist Rick Foot for an album designed (if not always wholly successful) to be more lyrically upbeat than their previous two offerings. Titled after the late American children’s author whose 70s books about anthropomorphised animals envisioned a perfect society, the actual world today implicit in the title, the pulsing speak-sing Dear Life with double bass anchoring the scuttling rhythm has them hanging on for ….(“It’s been a very trying year in a very trying decade too”) while coloured by flute, banjo and harmonica, Slow Magic harks back to summery 60s pop. Rather less jovial, set to a tinkling backdrop, I Am Afraid, from whence comes the album title, is a list song of things in the world that scare him, from spiders to facism and Alzhemier’s, while No Deal offers up a Brexit folk protest number and, filled with sampled suburban sounds, Extinction Man follows a similar approach, inspired by the extinction rebellion protests.

Elsewhere, featuring bowed bass, Hedgehog is a gentle lullaby about mental health issues, while What Do I Know? ventures into bossa nova territory with acoustic guitar as he sings about spending his life searching for answers to all the wrong questions and questioning all the wrong answers. Featuring Rufus Grig on piano, In The Sun brings things back to a more optimistic outlook, but then the clouds roll back with the shuffling Wipe My Mind which has a touch of Pete Atkin and the paradoxically jaunty (slightly early Al Stewart) Resignation Song (“Nothing I sing seems to change anything/I’m just wasting my time”), before closing out in Beatles (or is it The Monkees?) riff pastures with the Tempus Fugitive and the closing atmospherics of Tame Atlantics, piano backdropped by seagulls and waves, that marks both a farewell and the ambivalent promise of uncertain new beginnings. Embracing a range of moods, both musically and thematically, it’s an album that requires and repays serious listening. Mike Davies


VINNY PECULIAR & THE ART THIEVES

Loot (Self-released)

vinny

Exclusively available via Bandcamp, this is Alan Wilkes’s first live album and a raucous, rowdy affair it is too. A full on rock sound featuring Pete Mann on bass, Loz Ruston on guitar and drummer Joe Singh, there’s just six numbers, but plenty of muscle. Three (The Tim Machine metal riffery of Culture Vulture, glam shuffle Man Out of Time and the Bowiesque Pop Music For Ugly People) come from While You Still Can and there’s, one each from Peculiarities (the staccato Pulpy pop bounce of Uniform) and Return Of The Native (the swaggery 70s documenting strut of The Grove & The Ditch), the sixth a brand new number, Grayson, a 70s funky track about and inspired by Grayson Perry.

I’ve only ever seen him solo, but clearly the band experience is something else entirely. Proceeds from this will towards funding a new studio album. Consider it your civic duty to contribute. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2020