“Monkey on my back”
The brilliant, endlessly active Gail Something-Else has recorded a new Muddy Summers album, and the project and lady at the centre of it, is showing signs of confidence and musical identity that suggest that these songs will be heard in festivals for many years.
The album kicks off with a great call to arms delivered with gritted teeth, reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, with a stark acoustic guitar backing. It brilliantly sets the tone for the album, and shines in its choice of production. Again, the production is impressive, although completely different, in the second track, “Silent Screams”, a more reflective tone to a more personal song of relationship breakdown. Here, brilliant, beautiful lyrics lay above crisp, effective electronic backing. “Status” that follows it is back on the bigger picture, with her excellent observations on the way we divide ourselves through wealth and opportunity poetically dovetailing the mandolin riff that runs through the track. Her call for everyone to “use your brain for what it’s meant for” is a great way to finish this lyrical track. The tone shifts again for the track “Old Time”, again musically and lyrically; a gentle sense of frustration running through the track. “Parody” is a brilliant condemnation of David Cameron’s policies. The track is backed almost entirely by the piano, which adds to the satiric tone of the track, with reminders of US satirists from decades ago. The tone shifts again, with the unmistakable appearance of Doozer McDooze’s rhythm guitar. “Fascist Fuck Train” has already been played at many festivals around the country and I can see it running for a long time. Again, Gail mixes more metaphorical lines with aggressive, less poetic lines beautifully. Her references are spot on, and the observations are educated and borne from experience and awareness. Binks McWobbla provides a very different backing to “Poor Little Rich Boy”, which gives Gail a more seductive palette to make more commentary on the wealth divide dominating our lives. The trumpet and organ melodies dance around the vocals and give the track an improvised, “wilder” sound. Lee Bowers is Gail’s partner on “The Dress” which features a pretty hardcore delay effect on the vocals, which takes some getting used to, but it’s a brilliant song, with great lyrics and lovely backing from Lee Bower’s guitar. “Dear Riot Copper” is easily one of the best tracks on the album; powerful, atmospheric, perfectly phrased and clearly from direct personal experience. The gentle rap style fits the dramatic electronica well, with the song building up towards the last verse with the very serious repercussions of Gail’s experience laid out in the song. “Warren James” is a live track that acts as a more “traditional” protest song; an equally powerful troubadour song that lays out the story of the Forest of Dean riots in 1831. This song is the most folk influenced song, but the variety of styles throughout the album is a real testament to Gail’s versatility. Gail uses Cameron’s creepy voice for a powerful effect on “For the when”, a dark song that provides more commentary on being a victim of this present government’s attitude. In complete contrast, Doozer McDooze returns for a hilarious song about the ridiculous flotsam and jetsam that we encounter online, with a funny, but pretty finite finishing statement in the last words of the song. “Monkey on my back” is a lovely finish; a tribal chant that rounds off the themes of the album with typical inventiveness.
This album is the best piece of work Gail has recorded. She has assembled an excellent array of collaborators around her, while proving that she can record and write great backing tracks by herself. As a whole, the songs are consistent, powerful and immediate. I would recommend this to the legions of people that feel frustrated by the anti-social policies we keep experiencing from the present government. Gail tells it like it is, and there are too few people doing that.
by Gareth Howells
Music Lecturer and Bemis frontman